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 home repair fraud, insurance scams, price gouging, and other schemes following the recent tornadoes and severe storms that moved throughout the state.
“Unfortunately, con artists will try to take advantage of those impacted by a weather-related disaster or individuals looking to donate to their neighbors in need,” said Carr. “As we continue to pray for the families and communities in the path of the storms, we want to remind all Georgians of the important steps they can take to protect themselves from home repair fraud and other schemes. We know this is a difficult time for many, and our office stands ready to assist any consumer who thinks they have encountered a potential scam.”
“Criminals know potential victims are at their most vulnerable after a natural disaster, which is why it’s important to be on guard against insurance-related scams immediately following a loss,” said King. “Never pay upfront for services, only use trusted providers, and speak to your insurance company before signing any contracts for repairs done to your home. My office is here to assist any consumers who are having issues with a claim or are not receiving a timely response from their insurance company.”
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 service and then disappear without ever doing the work. In other cases, scammers may charge exorbitant prices for tree removal, 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.
Below are 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 donate your money.
Below are 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 March 26, 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 April 3, 2023.
Additional 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.