This is a news release from the MS Attorney General's Office.
As many consumers have started on the road to recovery following this weekend's severe weather, Attorney General Jim Hood is reminding all Mississippians of the emergency preparedness and post-storm resources available through his office. These materials include tips for natural disaster recovery and how to avoid home-repair scams.
In addition to providing these materials to storm victims, the Mississippi Attorney General's Office is sending a message to crooked contractors and other scam artists that disaster-related fraud won't be tolerated in our state.
"My prayers and my condolences go out to the loved ones of those who lost their lives in Saturday morning's storms," Attorney General Hood said. "Hundreds of our friends and neighbors also sustained property damage. We know from past experience that this type of storm damage in Mississippi attracts criminals looking for ways to take advantage of homeowners, and we're getting the message out now so people can be aware of such quick-fix schemes and spread the word to neighbors and family members before they become victims. Within the next few weeks, home and business owners will want to repair storm damage quickly, but we caution them to be patient and make sure they are using a reputable home repair contractor."
In order to avoid falling victim to scams or unscrupulous contractors in the aftermath of severe storms, Attorney General Hood offers these tips to protect you and your loved ones against home repair fraud:
- Always get more than one estimate. Ensure that all quotes are in writing for the full scope of the work.
- Have a written home repair contract in place before allowing work to begin. A contractor who won't put pricing or warranty information in writing may be planning to defraud you.
- Request references and follow up with these references. Don’t assume that just because a reference is provided that it is a positive one.
- Use Mississippi contractors if you can. Verify that the contractor is licensed and insured.
- Be wary of supposed contractors who come to your home soliciting business. Most reputable contractors will be busy and won’t need to solicit business.
"Con artists are creative and resourceful especially in the wake of severe weather, so we urge storm victims to remain alert, ask questions and be wary of the most common post-disaster fraud practices including bogus housing inspectors and fraudulent building contractors who follow storms across the country to profit from the misfortune of others," Attorney General Hood said.
Attorney General Hood recommends that you take time to download a copy of the "model contract," which will help you avoid becoming a victim of home repair fraud. More information can be found in "Consumer Tips for Storm Victims." Both of these resources can be found at www.agjimhood.com, under the media center/publications link.
"We also encourage Mississippians to develop and practice their own family emergency plans," Attorney General Hood said. "With spring storm season just around the corner, having necessary supplies on hand, a communications plan with your loved ones in place, and insurance and financial account information ready will assist consumers during and after a storm."
In the aftermath of any storm or any other time, if you suspect home repair fraud or think you may have been conned by a scam artist, please contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at (601) 359-4230 or (800) 281-4418.