December 31, 1996--Attorney General Christine Gregoire and state and federal recovery agencies are warning storm-stricken Washington residents not to fall victim to scams while repairing and recovering from the recent storms.
"As the snow melts and the waters recede, scam artists often descend into a heavy-hit storm area," said Gregoire. "They take advantage of people with innocent-sounding offers of help."
The first con artists on the disaster scene are usually questionable contractors who promise immediate or cheap home repair, clean-up or remodeling. Some of these "contractors" are from out-of-state and are not registered to do business in Washington. Their scam is to take money up front and never do the work, do a shoddy job, or require additional money once the job starts, the Attorney General said.
Gregoire urges anyone considering hiring a contractor to obtain references, as well as contact the State Department of Labor & Industries at 1-800-647-0982 to verify that the contractor is licensed.
She also urges storm victims to follow some simple steps when hiring people to help with clean-up activities, such as drying carpets, cleaning basements, repairing drywall, fixing roofs, removing debris, cleaning septic tanks and applying siding:
- Whenever possible, work with a local contractor you know and trust.
- Be cautious with contractors who come to your door or contact you.
- Be especially wary of contractors driving unmarked trucks with out-of-state or no license plates.
- Also, find out whether any complaints have been filed against a contractor by calling the local office of the Better Business Bureau.
- Get repair agreements up front in writing. Never pay any large sums of money in advance and don't make a final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
Washington residents are urged to proceed with caution on all their buying decisions as they recover and rebuild from the recent storms. To report a storm related scam or to request a copy of the Attorney General's free handout giving tips and advice on issues and scams facing storm victims, call 1-800-551-4636 or visit the AG home page at www.atg.wa.gov