BATON ROUGE, LA – Scammers and con artists see the aftermath of a natural disaster as an opportunity to take advantage of Louisiana citizens trying to rebuild and get their lives back to normal. With June 1st marking the start of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry reminds our State’s people to make sure their homes, families, and personal identities remain safe during storm season.
“Fraud awareness should be included in every consumer’s emergency preparedness plans,” said General Landry. “Unfortunately, hurricane season attracts criminals; but consumers can combat fraud by learning how to recognize and avoid common disaster-related scams.”
General Landry urges residents to spot these common disaster-related scams:
Identity Theft - Safeguard your personal information in the event of an evacuation.
Take your sensitive personal documents with you or put them in a secure, waterproof location such as a safe deposit box or home safe. Personal information items may include your passport, credit cards, checkbooks, car registration, home title, insurance contracts, college degrees, health insurance cards, Social Security cards, and birth and marriage certificates.
Home Repair Scams - Before allowing someone to repair your damaged home, check out his or her credentials.
Verify potential contractors by calling the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at 800-256-1392. Get at least three written estimates and make sure each contractor bids on exactly the same work. Always require the contractor to show proof of workman’s compensation and general liability insurance. Do not agree to a large down payment. Get a contract in writing and keep a copy of it in a safe place. Pay by check or money order and keep all receipts.
Price Gouging - Report suspected price gouging to local law enforcement and to General Landry’s Consumer Protection Section.
Price gouging is the increase in prices or value for goods and services that are higher than the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods and services at or immediately before the time of the state of emergency. A price gouging ban is placed on an area following the declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor or Parish President. This ban can remain in effect up to 30 days after the state of emergency ends. Price gouging is not attributable to verifiable market fluctuations and usually involves gasoline, hotels, and generators.
Phony Emergency Response Officials - Watch out for con-artists that pose as government officials or insurance adjusters.
Verify people posing as government officials or insurance adjusters by asking for proper identification. Do not give out any information until you have checked with the actual agency or insurance company the person claims to represent. Never give cash on the spot to any individual who shows up claiming to be an insurance agent or disaster aid worker.
Fake Charities - Before donating, make sure the charity is legitimate.
Visit www.guidestar.org to find out if the charity is actually an IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Contact General Landry’s Charitable Registration Section, the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Corporations Database, and the Better Business Bureau before you donate.
For more tips or to report disaster-related fraud, call General Landry’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-351-4889 or visit www.agjefflandry.com.