June 20, 2008
Jefferson City, Mo. - As residents in Missouri towns along the Mississippi River work furiously to protect their communities from flooding, Attorney General Jay Nixon is reminding consumers to watch out for con artists. Nixon says thieves often target hard-hit areas claiming to offer home-repair services. The Attorney General says these scam artists often go door-to-door, offering quick services for consumers who may be in urgent need of repairs and supplies, whether it's a new roof, windows, generators or other services.
"Natural disasters always produce heroic acts by ordinary citizens, such as volunteers working around the clock in sandbagging efforts," Nixon said. "Unfortunately, such situations also always produce con artists, people who look to take advantage of the misfortune of others by promising services, collecting payment and not following through on the job."
Nixon also wants consumers to be on the lookout for price gouging on necessary supplies like water, ice, storage units, gas and generators, and to report any instances in which they feel they have been victimized.
"Any time a business raises prices simply to profit from a natural disaster, that is price gouging, and that is illegal in Missouri," Nixon said.
When hiring contractors, Nixon says consumers should be suspicious of anyone who:
Nixon says consumers should follow these suggestions when hiring a home-repair company:
If a home repair contractor doesn't offer a written agreement, the Attorney General encourages consumers to write their own agreement. Nixon's Web site offers a worksheet with guidelines for drawing up a home improvement contract.
Consumers can report fraud and price gouging by filing a complaint online with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at ago.mo.gov or by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.