RICHMOND – As Virginia begins to recover from significant flooding, storms and tornadoes caused by Hurricane Florence, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today encouraged Virginians to know their rights as consumers and to be on the lookout for common frauds and schemes that take advantage of people affected by natural disasters. Specifically, the Office of the Attorney General alerted Virginians to scams involving door to door canvassing, charitable contribution solicitations, home repair proposals, and tree cleanup and removal. Attorney General Herring previously warned Virginians to be cautious when donating money to assist hurricane victims in their recovery efforts.
“This hurricane has had a significant impact on families across Virginia and we want to make sure that folks do not also become victims of scams during this time,” said Attorney General Herring. “Unfortunately, those affected by natural disasters are often the target of frauds, scams, and other illegal practices as they try to clean up and move forward. I urge all Virginians to familiarize themselves with fraudulent behavior that follows storms like Hurricane Florence. Be wary of any red flags that you may notice, resist pressures to make any quick decisions, and do not hesitate to call my office if you think you may have been a victim of fraudulent or illegal business practices.”
Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section at 1(800) 552-9963 and can file a complaint online. Consumers are encouraged to keep and provide copies of as much documentation as possible.
HOME REPAIRS, DEBRIS REMOVAL, OR CLEANUP
Home repair companies will arrive at disaster sites in response to the high demand for their services resulting from widespread property damage. Often disreputable companies hoping to make easy money are among them. They may require you to pay them before doing the work, do a shoddy job, or add extra costs throughout the job. To avoid being taken advantage of in this way, follow these tips:
- Work with contractors you know or local firms with roots in the community.
- Ask people you trust for contractor referrals.
- Ask the contractor for references and check them.
- Verify the contractor’s license status and check on any complaints with the Board for Contractors at http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/
LicenseLookup/ or call (804) 367-8511.
- Get written estimates from several firms.
- Do not do business without a written contract. Be sure that all guarantees, promises, and details are in writing.
- Do not pay large sums in advance and never make final payment until all work is completed to your satisfaction.
- Be extra cautious when a contractor comes to your door soliciting your business, offers you discounts for finding other customers, or “just happens to have” materials left over from a previous job.
DOOR TO DOOR SOLICITATIONS
In addition to home repair services, door-to-door solicitors may offer a variety of products for use after the disaster, as well as services like tree or debris cleanup. Some door-to-door solicitors are not legitimate. Remember these tips when someone comes to your door to sell you something:
- High pressure sales tactics are often a part of fraudulent activity. Do not be hurried or intimidated. The salesperson is at your door uninvited and remains there only at your courtesy.
- Be extra cautious about letting someone into your home. Never let anyone into your home without first asking for identification.
- Under Virginia law, you have three days to cancel sales made at your home if the product or service costs $25 or more.
- Your right of cancellation may be waived by you in an emergency. Be very cautious about signing a document that waives your right to cancel the sale. Read anything you are asked to sign very carefully.
- If you decide to purchase from or use the services of a door-to-door solicitor, get all information and promises in writing; but remember, without a bricks and mortar business location, it is easy for these individuals to relocate and make it impossible for you to find them should legal recourse become necessary.