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DeWine: Following Severe Weather, Beware of Scams
Ohio Ag Connection - 07/17/2017

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned consumers to beware of scams following the severe weather that hit Ohio this past week.

"Bad weather, unfortunately, can lead to scams," Attorney General DeWine said. "Some con artists will travel to storm-damaged communities, go door to door offering immediate work, and then leave after taking someone's money. Another risk, with all the flooding we've had, is for flood-damaged cars to eventually make their way to the market. We just warn people to be careful. Scams are out there, but prevention can go a long way."

The Ohio Attorney General's Office has pursued dozens of cases involving home improvement services that were never provided as promised, including cases against "storm-chasing" contractors who contacted consumers at their homes, took large down payments, and left without completing the promised work.

Warning signs include:

- Contractors who show up unexpectedly after a storm.

- Contractors with no reputation or a poor reputation.

- Requests for large upfront payments, such as half or more of the total cost.

- Requests for consumers to sign over their insurance check.

- Offers to begin work immediately.

- No written contract outlining the work to be done.

- Door-to-door sellers who don't notify consumers about their cancellation rights.

To avoid problems, consumers should research contractors carefully before hiring them, and they should consider getting estimates from multiple businesses before making a final decision. Consumers can search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General's Office or Better Business Bureau and contact past customers to ask about their experiences with a company.

If a contract results from a door-to-door sale, consumers generally have three business days to cancel the contract under Ohio's Home Solicitation Sales Act. Sellers must provide consumers with written notice of their cancellation rights under this law.

After extensive flooding occurs, some flood-damaged vehicles ultimately may enter the market. For example, individuals may sell cars online without disclosing flood damage, or dealers may purchase cars at auction without realizing that they were damaged in a flood or totaled by an insurance company.

Used-car buyers can help protect themselves by checking vehicle history reports using services such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, CARFAX, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

History checks may not show the complete background of a vehicle, so consumers also should have the vehicle evaluated by an independent mechanic before making a purchase. Signs of potential water damage include stains, musty odors, dirt, rust, brittle wires, lights that don't work or that appear foggy, an ignition that doesn't start, or other electrical problems.

Consumers who need help or who want to report a potential scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

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