Storm aftermath fraud

Oklahoma’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act is now in effect for 15 Oklahoma counties after Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency due to the tornadoes and severe storms last week, Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced.

The counties included in the declaration are: Atoka, Bryan, Choctaw, Cleveland, Coal, Comanche, Garvin, Johnson, Kay, McCurtain, Murray, Noble, Payne, Stephens and Tillman.

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, Pruitt said.

The act additionally is in effect for another 180 days for prices to repairs, remodeling and construction.

“Many families are dealing with significant losses from these storms and the last things they need to worry about are scammers and price gouging,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “While a majority of Oklahomans are focused on helping their neighbors in this aftermath, unfortunately a few bad actors may try to take advantage of the most vulnerable, so consumers should be alert.”

As the clean-up process begins, Pruitt said Oklahomans should be wary of those individuals who stream into communities to target homes and businesses damaged by the recent tornadoes in the state. Oklahomans should be mindful of scams involving cleanup, removal, home repair and tree trimming, as well as price gouging after disasters.

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.

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.

Oklahomans who suspect fraud related to disaster cleanup or repairs, or who experience price gouging, should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at 405-521-2029 or 918-581-2885.