AG Koster alerts consumers of scams in aftermath of floods
JEFFERSON CITY - Attorney General Chris Koster warned consumers to be on the lookout for price gouging and other storm-chasing scams after heavy rains and flooding occurred throughout Missouri.
"My office stands prepared to protect Missouri consumers impacted by severe flooding," Koster said. "We encourage anyone with flood or other storm-related property damage to be alert for scammers who follow weather disasters and prey on consumers needing repair or cleanup work."
Scammers typically go door-to-door and try to pressure people when offering repair or cleanup services. The scammers may not be in state and be unable to show local references or prove they are able to legally work in your state. Storm chasers often ask to be paid up front, provide bad or no work, then leave.
Koster also warned of possible uncontrolled raising of prices during an emergency for necessities like water, food, gas, and cleanup equipment. Price gouging is illegal in Missouri.
Koster offered the following tips to avoid becoming the victim of scams or fraud following natural disasters:
- Beware of fake disaster officials and ask for identification from anyone who claims to be a government official.
- Contact your insurance company before moving ahead with repairs by a contractor.
- Do not pay for work before it is done. Inspect the work and make sure you are happy with it before you pay. Don't pay anything without getting a written contract. Avoid paying with cash.
- Seek recommendations for repairs from friends, neighbors, and others you trust. Do not hire any person without asking for, and checking, references.
- Before work begins, make sure you get a written contract detailing all the work to be performed, its costs, and a projected completion date. Check to see if the builders you have hired are legitimate by contacingt the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau.
- Beware of charity scams that use recent storms to make their phony pleas for donations sound more believable. If a caller is unwilling to work with you or calls you and asks for a credit card, bank account, or Social Security number, it may be a scam. To report telemarketing fraud, call the Attorney General's Office.
- Report price gouging. Any person who believes a business has suddenly and artificially raised the prices on necessities should contact the Attorney General's Office.
Consumers can file and search complaints and check charities online at ago.mo.gov. Consumers also may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 with questions or to file a complaint.
[Editor's note: This article has been updated to provide clarity.]