CONSUMER ALERT: AG Carr, Commissioner King Warn Georgians of Potential Fraud Following Recent Tornadoes
ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr and Insurance Commissioner John King are urging Georgians to be on the lookout for potential home repair fraud, insurance scams, price gouging, and other schemes following the recent tornadoes and severe storms that moved throughout the state.
“With con artists ready to prey on those impacted by the recent storms, we want to ensure that consumers are aware of their protections under the law and know how to spot a scam,” said Attorney General Carr. “If your home or business was damaged, we urge you to thoroughly research a contractor before hiring anyone to make repairs. We understand this is a difficult time for many families across our state, and our Consumer Protection Division stands ready to assist any Georgian who thinks they have encountered potential fraud.”
“Unfortunately, bad actors know to target victims at their most vulnerable, such as after a storm-related loss,” said Commissioner King. “Beware of anyone who shows up at your home or place of business immediately after a storm. Your first call after a disaster should be to your insurance company to file a claim. Whether it’s a contractor or public adjuster, do your research and verify credentials before signing any contracts or agreeing to any services.”
When bad storms or tornadoes cause widespread damage to homes, criminals may try to exploit the disaster. These scam artists, often referred to as “storm chasers,” may ask homeowners for up-front payments for home repair services and then disappear without ever doing the work. In other cases, scammers may charge exorbitant prices, charge you for unnecessary repairs or do substandard work. Sometimes scammers offer to cover the homeowner’s insurance deductible and persuade them to give fake reports to the insurance company, potentially implicating the homeowner in a case of insurance fraud.
Attorney General Carr and Commissioner King are offering the following tips to help Georgians avoid home repair fraud and insurance scams:
- Steer clear of any contractor who asks for full payment up-front, only accepts payment in cash, or refuses to provide you with a written contract.
- Avoid door-to-door offers for home repair work. Instead, ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
- Be skeptical of any contractor that offers to pay your insurance deductible or offers other no-cost incentives, as these can be signs of a scam. Always talk to your insurance company before committing to any storm-related repairs or inspections.
- Ask contractors for references and check them out.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the business.
- Ensure that the contractor has the required licensing and/or affiliation:
- Tree Removal: Check with the International Society of Arboriculture to make sure the person has a valid arborist license.
- Water Damage and Mold: Only hire businesses that are local and qualified in mold remediation and property restoration. To find local contractors and restorers, check with the Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians and the Restoration Industry Association.
- Contractors: General contractors, electricians, plumbers, and heating and air conditioning contractors must be licensed with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. To look up a contractor, visit sos.ga.gov. Please note that certain specialty occupations such as roofers, tree removal services, painters, drywall contractors and repair handymen are not required to be licensed by the state.
- Legitimate contractors should be able to provide the following:
- Business license
- General liability insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
- Written manufacturer warranties
- Written labor warranties
- Public adjusters are also required to carry a license to do work in Georgia. Call the Insurance Commissioner’s Office at 1-800-656-2298 to verify if a public adjuster is licensed and that their contract has been approved before hiring them to do any work on your behalf.
Fraudulent charities tend to pop-up quickly following a tragedy or natural disaster.
It is fairly easy for a scammer to set up a realistic-looking website, copy a logo, or create a name that sounds very close to that of a well-known charity. Consumers should also be careful when responding to ads or posts they see on social media or crowdfunding sites, as these are not always legitimate – even if they have been shared or liked by your friends. It is very important to take your time to review an organization thoroughly before you give someone your money.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has put together the following tips to help Georgians avoid charity fraud:
- Consider donating only to charities you know and trust.
- The following websites can help you determine whether an organization is reputable and how likely it is to use your money effectively and efficiently:
- Find out whether the charity plans to share your contact information with other charitable organizations or marketing companies. This commonly occurs, which is why people often receive solicitations from other charities after making a donation. You can review a charitable organization’s donor privacy policies by visiting Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
- Never give out your credit card or bank account information in response to an unsolicited phone call, email or text. Instead, ask the person to mail you the information.
On Jan. 12, 2023, Governor Brian Kemp declared a State of Emergency in Georgia due to the severe storm system and tornadoes that moved throughout the state. This Executive Order invokes the Price Gouging Statute as it pertains to goods and services necessary to respond to the State of Emergency, including motor and diesel fuel. These price gouging protections will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2023.
Concurrently, price gouging protections invoked by the State of Emergency for Supply Chain Disruptions began at 12:00 a.m. on April 16, 2022, and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2023.
More information about price gouging can be found here.
Reporting Contacts and Resources
If you encounter home repair fraud or suspected price gouging, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 404-651-8600 or file a complaint online at consumer.ga.gov.
Report suspicious charitable solicitations to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Charities Division by calling 470-312-2640 or visit their website here.
If you believe a roofer or other contractor has committed insurance fraud, file a report with the Insurance Commissioner’s Office at oci.georgia.gov/report-suspected-fraud or call 404-656-2070 or 1-800-656-2298.
If you have trouble making contact with or receiving a timely response from your insurance company or if you have questions about your insurance policy, call 1-800-656-2298 or visit oci.georgia.gov.
For helpful tips on how to stay weather-aware, visit the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency’s website at https://gema.georgia.gov/plan-prepare/alerts-and-warnings.