March 20, 2008
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon is warning Missourians dealing with high water in flooded areas to watch out for con artists. Nixon says with any storm that leads to damage, evacuations or power outages, crooks will not be far behind. Known as storm chasers, these thieves target hard-hit areas claiming to offer home-repair services. He says storm chasers 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, carpet cleaning or other services.
"This flood of water may very well be followed by a flood of con artists," Nixon said. "Consumers need to know there are people out there who want to take advantage of their misfortune by promising services, collecting money and not following through on the job."
Nixon also wants consumers to report price gouging on necessary supplies like water, ice, plywood, gas and generators. “Any time a business raises prices simply to profit from a natural disaster, that’s price gouging, and it’s 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.
Nixon's office has already received more than 250 consumer complaints on home repair in 2008, most of those involving consumers who paid for services in advance. His office also took numerous legal actions against businesses for price gouging during the winter storms of January 2007, resulting in more than $170,000 in restitution for consumers and penalties paid to the state. 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 1-800-392-8222.