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Oklahoma tornadoes: State attorney general advises donors to be aware in helping with relief effort

Charity fraud, scammers and price gougers sometimes are as common as debris after a storm disaster, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt warns.
BY RICHARD MIZE richardmize@opubco.com Published: May 22, 2013

Use your head when following your heart in giving money for tornado recovery: Tragedy brings out the best in some people, the worst in others — and charity fraud and other scams always pop up after a bad storm.

Donors beware.

“For those folks around the country who want to donate funds to help families in Oklahoma, please be alert and only donate to reputable relief charities such as the Salvation Army or the Red Cross,” state Attorney General Scott Pruitt said.

“The first scam we typically see after devastation like this is charity fraud. We have more than 30 investigators in the field to help Oklahomans avoid scams, fraud and price gouging as communities work to recover and rebuild.”

Anyone who suspects charity fraud or finds price gouging at gas stations, grocery stores, rental car companies or hotels should call the AG's hotline immediately at 521-2029.

Over the next few weeks, “criminals will shift focus to scams involving cleanup, removal, home repair and tree trimming,” Pruitt said. “Home and business owners will want to quickly repair their property, but we urge them to be cautious and patient and to use reputable contractors.

“We ask that residents pay particular attention to criminals known as ‘travelers' who go from one community to the next to take advantage of vulnerable Oklahomans.”


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At a glance

Avoid getting scammed

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt cautioned people 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's office 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 Public Protection Unit 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.

For more tips and resources, go online to www.oag.ok.gov/oagweb.nsf/Consumer, visit the attorney general's Facebook page or call the Public Protection Unit at 521-2029.

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