Seattle - March 1, 2001 - In the wake of Wednesday’s 6.8 earthquake that rattled the Puget Sound region, consumers must be particularly vigilant to protect themselves from fraudulent home repair scams and charity appeals.
The Attorney General’s office recommends that consumers faced with making home repairs take a few minutes to take the same precautions they would under normal circumstances. A little bit of care now can save a consumer major headaches down the road.
For instance, consumers:
- Should be wary of contractors soliciting business door-to-door or by telephone.
- Should check to make sure a contractor is registered with the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).
- Should never give in to of high-pressure sales tactics.
- Should never pay for all repairs in advance, and should not pay cash.
- Should fully understand any contract before signing it. The contract should spell out the repairs that are to be done, the types of materials to be used and the price for labor and materials.
Consumers should also be wary of charity scams that also often appear in the wake of natural disasters. Most of us are contacted regularly by charities. After a disaster, the community’s need is great, and many people respond. Unfortunately, not all charity solicitations are what they seem.
Consumers should be aware of certain warning signs before giving.
- Don't be fooled by a name. Some charities, including for-profit companies, have sympathetic sounding names, or names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate charities.
- Don't fall for a "sob story." The hard luck tale is a favorite ploy of the phony operator. A legitimate charity will tell you how it is using your money to make a difference for the better.
- Don't give in to pressure. Tell the solicitor you want to take time to make your decision.
- Don't pay by cash. Pay by check and make it out to the charity (using its full name, not initials) not to the fundraiser. Never give your credit card number to a fundraiser over the phone. If the fundraiser comes to your door, always ask for identification. Alternatively, you can mail your check directly to the charity.
- Be wary of charities that offer to send a courier over immediately to collect your money.
For more information on contractors, call L&I’s Contractor Registration Verification Line: 1-800-647-0982. For information on charities, call the Secretary of State’s Charity Hotline at 1-800-332-GIVE (1-800-322-4483.)