Beware: Scams During Ice Storm Clean-Up
Authored By: Oklahoma Attorney General
Price gouging statutes in effect for all 77 counties after emergency declared
Attorney General Scott Pruitt is urging Oklahomans to be wary of criminals streaming into communities targeting homes and businesses damaged by the recent winter weather.
Scammers move quickly into communities and neighborhoods to offer services such as debris clean-up and removal, home repair, and tree trimming in the wake of storms such as last week’s ice storms.
"Following any storm, whether it is a tornado or an ice storm, Oklahomans should be wary of travelers. These are criminals who travel from one community to the next in an attempt to take advantage of folks, who in this instance have a lot of cleaning up to do,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “As we enter the winter season, it is especially important for us all to use caution and patience while going through the cleanup process to find reputable contractors. Whether it is tree removal or trimming, or even home repair, if anyone feels as if they are being scammed, contact my office immediately and we will take the necessary action.”
Attorney General Pruitt cautioned Oklahomans to be wary of repair services and contractors who:
- Solicit for work door-to-door;
- Offer discounts for finding other customers;
- “Just happen to have” materials left over from a previous job;
- Accept only cash payments;
- Pressure you for an immediate decision;
- Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front.
Attorney General Pruitt suggests the following tips for choosing a proper contractor or repair service:
- Ask for referrals from people you trust;
- Try to do business with local companies;
- Request to see proof of certification and insurance;
- Check out the repair service with the AG’s Consumer Protection Unit, the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board, and the Better Business Bureau;
- Ask for customer references;
- Get written estimates from several companies;
- Don’t do business without a written contract;
- Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing;
- Agree on start and completion dates, and have them in the contract.
Attorney General Pruitt also said Oklahoma’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act is now in effect for all 77 Oklahoma counties after Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency on Sunday due to the winter storm and flooding.
Oklahoma’s price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services during a state of emergency and for 30 days thereafter. The act additionally is in effect for another 180 days for prices to repairs, remodeling and construction.
The price gouging statute was adopted following the May 1999 tornadoes that caused significant damage across a large portion of Oklahoma.
During this state of emergency and for 30 days after the expiration merchants, landlords, anyone selling, renting or leasing OR offering to sell, rent or lease anything in the emeregency area at a price more than 10% above the price of those same goods or services, (groceries, building supplies, utilities, gas, apartments, houses, storage units, etc.) can ONLY increase the price of the goods or services IF:
- the price increases in applicable regional, national or international petroleum commodity markets; or
there are other reasons unrelated to the emergency that do not include any increase in profit to the seller or owner.
If you suspect price gouging, Pruitt says file a complaint with his office's Public Protection Unit at www.oag.ok.gov or by calling (405) 521-2029.
If you have a question about landlord & tenant problems, repairs or any other legal problem, call Legal Aid at 888-534-5243.
Click here for a copy of the Attorney General's Disaster Scam Prevention Packet.