MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's Attorney General is warning flood damage victims to be wary of scam artists who may try to con them out of their money.
"This is the kind of hardship that brings us together, as neighbors help neighbors and the people of Alabama stand together," said Attorney General King. "There are unfortunately also those among us who would further victimize their fellow citizens. Let me be perfectly clear: I will not tolerate those who would seek to profit illegally at the expense of Alabamians who have been harmed. Where there is evidence of such crimes, my office will investigate and take appropriate action to prosecute."
King says a first offense for home repair fraud is a class A misdemeanor and can land a person in jail for a year, plus fines. Subsequent offenses jump to a felony listing and can lead to 10 years in prison and fines of more than $15,000 per count.
TIPS TO KEEP YOURSELF FROM BECOMING A FRAUD VICTIM:
- Find out as much as you can about the workers, especially if they make unsolicited contact with you. Avoid contractors who pressure you to hire them after making an unsolicited visit to your house.
- Ask for proof that they are bonded or insured.
- Ask to see their license. Contractors who perform work costing more than $10,000 are required to have a contractor's license. You may check through the Alabama Home Builder's Licensure Board to see if a contractor is licensed, by calling 1-800-304-0853. Consumers should also check with their local government because those contractors performing work costing less than $10,000 are probably required to have a city or county business license, depending on the area in which you live. Verify! Verify! Verify!
- Ask if this particular job requires a permit. Most construction and home repairs of major significance require a permit from the county or city. Do not let them talk you into applying for the permit in your name. If they do not want to be known to local officials, they may be hiding a bad reputation.
- Get a written estimate detailing the work to be done and setting a completion date.
- Ask for references. Get names and addresses, and consider checking examples of work they have done.
- Comparison shop. Don't accept the first quote you are given.
- Do not pay too much up-front. You should pay only a minimal amount, perhaps as much as one-fourth, to indicate good faith and ability to pay. If they tell you more money is needed in advance, be wary. They should be able to pay for supplies or have credit to make necessary purchases until you compensate them afterward.
- Make sure you can contact them. Be wary if they can only give you a pager number, a cell phone number, or a post office box address. Businesses with established addresses may be safer.
Do you think you've been defrauded? Call the AG's Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-392-5658 or write to
Consumer Protection Division
500 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, Ala 36130