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Attorney general: Scammers may target Oklahoma storm victims

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Tornado near Cement on 4/29/16

NINNEKAH, Okla. – As severe storms and tornadoes as moved through the state last week, officials are warning residents about scam artists moving in to the area.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says Oklahomans should be cautious about scams involving cleanup, removal, home repair and tree trimming.

Also, he says storm victims should also watch out for price gouging.

Oklahoma’s price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services during a state of emergency and for 30 days afterward.

“After disasters, Oklahomans need to be cautious, patient, and particularly wary of criminals known as ‘travelers’ who target disaster-stricken communities to take advantage of those harmed by tornadoes, fires or other disasters,” Pruitt said. “Whether it is travelers’ scams or price-gouging from unscrupulous businesses, my office will work to ensure that home and business owners have the essential information needed to protect themselves from further harm. If anyone thinks they have been scammed, they should contact my office immediately so we can take appropriate action.”

Officials say you should be wary of contractors or repair services that:

  • Solicit for work door-to-door
  • Offer discounts for finding other customers
  • “Just happen to have” materials left over from a previous job
  • Accept only cash payments
  • Pressure you for an immediate decision
  • Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front.

Instead, the attorney general’s office has a few tips for making sure you choose a reputable repair service:

  • Ask for referrals from people you trust
  • Try to do business with local companies
  • Request to see proof of certification and insurance
  • Check the repair service with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit, the Better Business Bureau and the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board
  • Ask for customer references
  • Get written estimates from several companies
  • Don’t do business without a written contract
  • Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing
  • Agree on start and completion dates, and have them in the contract.

If you think you are the victim of a scam or price gouging, call the Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029 or (918) 581-2885.

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