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Attorney General's News Release

January 29, 2009

Koster warns southeast Missourians to watch for fraud, price gouging after ice storm

Jefferson City, Mo. — Bursting pipes, downed trees, wrecked cars and high prices may be among the results of this weekend's ice storm, and Attorney General Chris Koster is reminding consumers in southeast Missouri to look out for law breakers and con artists.

"After damaging storms, con artists smell an opportunity to take advantage of Missourians in need," Koster said. "Consumers need to be on the lookout for products that have suddenly seen large increases in price – that could be price gouging, which is illegal in our state."

Consumers may need supplies like gasoline, generators, firewood, bottled water and other necessities because of the power outages. Once the ice melts and power is restored, home repair contractors and tree limb and debris removal companies will be busy. Koster says consumers should follow these suggestions to avoid getting ripped off:

  • Watch for price gouging. It's a violation of Missouri law for merchants to raise prices on necessities to make excessive profits after a natural disaster.
  • Be suspicious of solicitors who go door-to-door offering to make home repairs. Most con artists work this way.
  • Work with companies that are known or recommended by someone you trust. Check a company's reputation with Koster's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222, or the Know MO link at the Attorney General's Web site, ago.mo.gov.
  • Get at least two estimates in writing before choosing a contractor to repair your home or remove debris. If your contractor is not willing to write a contract, you can create your own using a home repair worksheet available at the Attorney General's Web site.
  • Don't pay full price for services you havent yet received. Make full payment only when the terms of your agreement have been met.

Southeast Missourians who suspect price gouging or other fraud can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office at ago.mo.gov, or by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.



 
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