Following Tropical Storm Henri, Connecticut State Officials Warn Consumers and Families to be Wary of Clean Up and Disaster Relief Scams
(Hartford, CT)– In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Henri, Attorney General William Tong and Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle Seagull are warning consumers and families to be aware of disaster relief and clean up scams.
Tropical Storm Henri brough strong winds and heavy rain to Connecticut that knocked out power and damaged homes and personal property. Storm damage often requires consumers and business owners to make expensive repairs quickly – making them vulnerable to scam artists.
After past significant storms and weather events, Connecticut residents have reported individuals, some claiming to work for utility companies, going door to door offering to reconnect electric power, repair roofs, remove trees or do other work in exchange for cash. The utility companies, and their authorized contractors, always carry identification and none will ask for payments from consumers. Be wary of any other contractor who is either going door to door, or who contacts you offering a service during this time. Consumers should make sure any contractors they work with are licensed and insured and by law all home improvement projects must have a contract.
“Some of us may be dealing with downed trees, power outages or damaged property in the wake of Tropical Storm Henri and it can be very tempting to take someone’s offer to fix the problem quickly,” Attorney General Tong said. “When these extreme weather events hit, bad actors see an opportunity to prey on people who are suffering and desperate for solutions and will offer fraudulent home repair services, jobs or pose as charities collecting money for victims. Always verify the legitimacy of a contractor or business offering to do work for you and don’t fall victim to their tactics — if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.”
“Particularly when it comes to clean-up and repair issues after a big storm, we remind and encourage consumers to do their research prior to hiring someone for a job,” said DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull. “Avoid doing business with someone who requires that you pay in cash, by wire transfer, or in any form of untraceable payment; refuses to offer you a contract in writing, which is required by law in Connecticut; offers you an incredibly low cost for work that needs to be completed, under the condition that you commit immediately; knocks on your door or otherwise solicits business specifically from you instead of you going to them; and will not provide references or proof of their credentials. Finally, you should always check elicense.ct.gov to verify a contractor’s credentials before hiring them for repair work on your home.”
Here are the most common weather and disaster related scams:
- Clean-up and repair scams: Scammers often offer clean-up or repair services at a low price, and without a contract. By law, home improvement projects must have a contract. Consumers should research potential contractors before making a decision, ask for credential information, identification, proof of insurance, and make sure there is a written signed contract detailing the work that will be done. You can verify credentials by visiting http://www.elicense.ct.gov.
- Charity scams: In the aftermath of large natural disasters you may want to donate money to support the recovery process. Scammers take advantage good intentions by creating fake charities and advertising them to potential donors. Always research a charity before giving by visiting sites like www.CharityNavigator.org, www.GuideStar.org, or www.give.org, and ask questions about how your donation will be used. If someone uses high-pressure tactics to convince you to give, it’s probably a scam. Any charity soliciting in the State of Connecticut must be registered with DCP.
- Job scams: Natural disasters sometimes cause unemployment, creating an opportunity for job scams. These scammers can be very convincing and often advertise on legitimate platforms. Remember that you should never have to pay to apply for a job, or to start a job – and if a job posting guarantees employment, you should be suspicious.
- Used car scams: During hurricanes and severe storms, vehicles can be destroyed or have severe water damage. Scammers may try to cover up this damage and sell these cars out of state. Be wary of buying used cars after natural disasters, and always do a thorough inspection and ask for the cars history.
To report a scam or instance of fraud, contact the Office of the Attorney General at 860-808-5318 or file a complaint with the office at https://www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint/. Or visit www.ct.gov/DCP/complaint or the Better Business Bureau’s Scamtracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.