December 25, 2014

Attorney General warns against scams in counties hit by floods and storms

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says price gouging rules are now in effect for all counties designated disaster areas by the governor, and anyone who finds big increases in the prices of materials used in the recovery from storms and flooding should report them. Miller says you also need to protect yourself from those who look to take advantage of you by promising to make repairs. “Scammers, often from out-of-state or certainly from a distance, come in and just happen to be in the neighborhood and knock on your door. I think you have to be particularly careful of those,” Miller says.

Miller says take some simple precautions, no matter where the person doing the work is from. “Get price comparisons or even bids. Get some references where work has been done. When you do decide on an agreement, get it in writing and sign the contract. But before you sign the contract, read it through and make sure that it makes sense,” according to Miller. And he says you should never pay the entire amount of the contract up front, as that’s usually when the contractor takes the money and never completes the work. Miller says you can pay some money ahead of time and the rest once the work has been completed.

Over half the counties in the state are now under a state disaster declaration, but Miller hasn’t yet heard of any problems. “We havent had any initial reports, it’s still early in the reconstruction and rehab world. We always try to get out early and warn people,” he says. Miller says the price gouging law is a good one, but he says you have to help by talking precautions. He says the downside is that it is sometimes hard to find scammers who are out of state and they sometimes spend the money before they are caught. “So it’s really important to follow the guidelines of protection and common sense that I’ve outlined so they don’t get the money in the first place,” Miller says.

You can go to the Attorney General’s website to get more information on preventing scams.