Oklahomans should be careful of scams after storms

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Press Release
Press Writer

Attorney General Scott Pruitt is urging Oklahomans to be wary of criminals streaming into communities targeting homes and businesses damaged by the recent winter weather.

Scammers move quickly into communities and neighborhoods to offer services such as debris clean-up and removal, home repair, and tree trimming in the wake of storms such as last week’s ice storms.

"Following any storm, whether it is a tornado or an ice storm, Oklahomans should be wary of travelers. These are criminals who travel from one community to the next in an attempt to take advantage of folks, who in this instance have a lot of cleaning up to do,” Attorney General Pruitt said.

“As we enter the winter season, it is especially important for us all to use caution and patience while going through the cleanup process to find reputable contractors. Whether it is tree removal or trimming, or even home repair, if anyone feels as if they are being scammed, contact my office immediately and we will take the necessary action.”

Attorney General Pruitt cautioned Oklahomans to be wary of repair services and contractors who:

- 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.

Attorney General Pruitt suggests the following tips for choosing a proper contractor or 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 out the repair service with the AG’s Consumer Protection Unit, the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board, and the Better Business Bureau;
- 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.

Attorney General Pruitt also said Oklahoma’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act is now in effect for all 77 Oklahoma counties after Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency on Sunday due to the winter storm and flooding.

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 thereafter, the Attorney General said. The act additionally is in effect for another 180 days for prices to repairs, remodeling and construction.

Oklahomans who suspect fraud related to storm-damage cleanup or repairs, or who experience price gouging, should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029 or (918) 581-2885.

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