Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recognized the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week this week by releasing a new “After the Disaster” consumer alert providing Michigan residents with tips to avoid be scammed after a severe weather event.
“While most business and charities act with the utmost professionalism and ethics, there are some bad apples who chose to take advantage of another’s misfortune,” said Schuette. “I urge residents to look at this consumer alert before severe weather strikes.”
SPOT IT: Post-disaster scams
- Price Gouging – Basic goods and services are top priorities after disaster strikes: the demand for certain services increases and scammers take advantage.
- Scammers attracted by FEMA payments – Scammers swarm to weather disasters to take advantage of otherwise careful consumers who have FEMA money for repairs and want to act quickly to avoid further problems like mold or rot.
- Emergency home repairs – Home repair and disaster cleanup scams can be avoided if you know what to look for and take your time before you hire anyone.
- Government Imposters – Criminals use everything from legitimate government references and threats of government action, to promises of government assistance to trick disaster victims.
- Sudden business closures – If a business suddenly closes that you have dealings with, act quickly to stop any further charges or any scheduled payments by your bank or card company.
- Flood-damaged vehicles – Flood-damaged cars can be shipped across the country to a car lot in your neighborhood just days after a flood. Many flood-damaged cars appear for sale on the internet or at car lots far away from the disaster without any mention or obvious signs of the damage.
- Disaster relief charity scams — Scam artists see disaster tragedies as opportunities to enrich themselves.
STOP IT: How to avoid being scammed
- Check credentials: Michigan law requires a Residential Builder license for any project costing $600 or more.
- FEMA inspectors verify damages, but they do not involve themselves in any repair, and they do not “certify” any contractor.
- Weather disasters and other unpredictable conditions can trigger suddenly higher prices. File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division if you suspect price gouging.
- Don’t put your hard-earned money into a flood-damaged lemon: inspect vehicles closely or take it to an independent mechanic to inspect.
If you have been the victim of a disaster-related scam, or if you would like to file a general consumer complaint, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division:
Consumer Protection Division P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909. Phone: 517-373-1140 Fax: 517-241-3771 Toll free: 877-765-8388. Online complaint form: https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx