CONSUMER ALERT: STAY AWAY FROM STORM-CHASING SCAMMERS

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August 29, 2012

LITTLE ROCK - Severe weather often strikes quickly in Arkansas, and unfortunately, sometimes con artists will strike just as quickly thereafter.

Scammers known as "storm chasers" are known to take advantage of unsuspecting storm victims by offering home-repair and debris-removal services following severe weather. These types of scams often involve door-to-door solicitations with the promise of doing repair work quickly and cheaply, but only if consumers pay for the services upfront.

With the remnants of Hurricane Isaac expected to impact the State this week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today issued this Consumer Alert. McDaniel warned consumers to use caution and avoid those who would cash in on a consumers' plight following severe weather events in the Natural State.

"We can experience a wide range of severe weather in Arkansas, and that weather can leave home and property damage in its wake," McDaniel said. "Understandably, consumers need repairs made as soon as possible, but falling into a con artist's trap only makes recovering from a storm more difficult."

McDaniel offered these suggestions to help Arkansans choose legitimate contractors for home-repair or debris-removal services:
• While it may be necessary to have repairs completed quickly, avoid door-to-door solicitors who promise "special" or "one-time" offers. Take some time to find reputable contractors and try to get at least three written estimates. Be wary of anyone who uses high-pressure sales tactics.
• Use a contractor you already know, or ask friends and family for references. Also, consider checking with the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, visit aclb.arkansas.gov to see if a contractor is licensed by the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board.
• In the event of a large-scale storm, counties and cities may have their own cleanup efforts underway. Double-check with municipal officials if a contractor claims to be authorized by a city or county to clean up debris or tree limbs.
• Put everything in writing. Enter into contracts that detail exactly the work that is to be completed, any warranties or guarantees, and the costs involved. For consumers expecting to receive insurance proceeds to cover the cost of repairs, contact the insurance carrier directly rather than authorizing the contractor to negotiate with the insurance carrier.
• Never pay the entire cost of a project in advance. Paying one-third in advance, one-third halfway through the job and another third upon completion helps to assure that a project will be completed.
• Don't forget that, under Arkansas law, contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale are generally required to include a buyer's right to cancel within three days after the contract is signed.
For more information about "storm chaser" scams or other consumer-related issues, visit the website of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org, or call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341.

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