Thursday, October 2, 2014 · 8:26 a.m.

Attorney general urges consumers to be aware of storm-related scams

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From tornadoes to high winds to flooding to ice, widespread damage has been inflicted over the state and surrounding region in the past few weeks, and many are trying to quickly recover and rebuild. However, the attorney general and officials with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs urge storm victims to exercise caution when hiring someone to help repair the damage.

According to Attorney General Bob Cooper, some people who repair roofs, remove trees and make general repairs are simply trying to take advantage of others' misfortunes.

“The past few weeks have been very trying for many people, but the need to stay vigilant is important in your search to get immediate help,” Cooper said in a prepared statement. “Most Tennesseans are always quick to help their neighbors in times of trouble, but it is important to help provide storm victims with the best information and preventive measures they can get to avoid being victimized again.” 

Common problems that arise after natural disasters include price gouging and fraud.

"Potential bad actors often use times of disaster as a golden opportunity to make a quick profit," Gary Cordell, director of Tennessee’s Division of Consumer Affairs, part of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, said in a prepared statement. “Anyone is a potential target of disaster recovery home improvement scams. Don’t let it happen to you.” 

Cordell said homeowners should take the time to verify with the department's board for licensing contractors before signing contracts. The site provides licensing information for many professions, including home improvement contractors. 

Cordell also said that homeowners should seek references for contractors; ask for copies of general liability and workers' compensation insurance policies; and get proposals/contracts in writing, including the specifics of the work that will be done, the materials that will be used and the date the repairs will be completed.

Click here for more tips from the board for licensing contractors. 

To file a complaint with a business, click here or call 1-800-342-8385, toll-free. The Division of Consumer Affairs also has an online complaint form here

More information is available here

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