Connecticut State Officials Warn Residents to be Aware of Hurricane Season and Natural Disaster-Related Scams As Severe Weather Events Become More Common
(Hartford, CT) – The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Attorney General William Tong and Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut are advising consumers and families to remain aware of disaster related scams as we enter the height of Connecticut’s traditional Hurricane Season (August-November), and as severe weather events become more common across the country.
Warmer weather brings increased potential for flooding, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and tropical storm or hurricane activity that can cause damage to personal property, homes and businesses. Storm damage often requires consumers and business owners to make expensive repairs quickly – making them vulnerable to scam artists. And as severe weather events and disasters like large wildfires occur more often in other parts of the country, Connecticut residents could become greater targets for charity scams.
“As severe weather events become more common, so will disaster-related scams,” said DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull. “We’re reminding consumers to stay vigilant this year, even in the face of storm related issues like power outages and storm damage, and do their research when it comes to things like hiring contractors for repairs, donating to charities, finding new jobs and making large purchases after a storm. Scammers will take advantage of any disaster to get ahead.”
Scammers and bad actors often prey on victims of natural disasters that occur locally and across the country” said Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) Commissioner James C. Rovella. “DESPP is reminding the public to apply a critical eye before entering into storm clean-up contracts or before giving money to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims. Residents should report all suspicious or fraudulent activity to local law enforcement within their town or city.”
“Over the last few weeks extreme weather has made headlines across the United States from devastating floods to life-threatening wildfires,” said Attorney General William Tong. “In the last few weeks alone, here in Connecticut, we’ve experienced a tropical storm, severe thunderstorms and even a tornado. Now, with the start of hurricane season, it’s important to be vigilant of scammers who take advantage of these natural disasters and the chaos they cause. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is predicting a stronger than normal hurricane season this year and Connecticut homeowners should take steps to prepare themselves for these weather events, including knowing the signs of a scam. When these extreme weather events hit, bad actors see an opportunity to prey on people who are suffering and desperate for solutions and will offer fraudulent home repair services, jobs or pose as charities collecting money for victims. Don’t fall victim to their tactics — if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.”
“It’s very unfortunately that scammers use natural disasters as a way to take victims,” said BBB Serving Connecticut CEO Paulette Scarpetti. “Victims of natural disasters should always research a company before hiring them to clean up storm damage or repair their home. If they are offered a steep discount to pay up front or in cash, that is always a red flag that the contractor is a fraud. People often just want the work done as soon as possible, especially if their home has been badly damaged, but taking your time to research a business first will help you avoid getting scammed in the process.”
Before hurricane season starts – we’re urging all Connecticut residents to be aware of these types of scams:
- Clean-up and repair scams: Scammers often offer clean-up or repair services at a low price, and without a contract. By law, home improvement projects must have a contract. Consumers should research potential contractors before making a decision, ask for credential information, identification, proof of insurance, and make sure there is a written signed contract detailing the work that will be done. You can verify credentials by visiting http://www.elicense.ct.gov.
- Charity scams: In the aftermath of large natural disasters you may want to donate money to support the recovery process. Scammers take advantage good intentions by creating fake charities and advertising them to potential donors. Always research a charity before giving by visiting sites like www.CharityNavigator.org, www.GuideStar.org, or www.give.org, and ask questions about how your donation will be used. If someone uses high-pressure tactics to convince you to give, it’s probably a scam. Any charity soliciting in the State of Connecticut must be registered with DCP.
- Job scams: Natural disasters sometimes cause unemployment, creating an opportunity for job scams. These scammers can be very convincing and often advertise on legitimate platforms. Remember that you should never have to pay to apply for a job, or to start a job – and if a job posting guarantees employment, you should be suspicious.
- Used car scams: During hurricanes and severe storms, vehicles can be destroyed or have severe water damage. Scammers may try to cover up this damage and sell these cars out of state. Be wary of buying used cars after natural disasters, and always do a thorough inspection and ask for the cars history.
If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, or if you notice a scam, you should report it to local law enforcement, as well as DCP by visiting www.ct.gov/DCP/complaint or to the Better Business Bureau’s Scamtracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.
Department of Consumer Protection
(860) 377-0246 (cell)
Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection
(860) 309-8760 (cell)
Office of the Attorney General
(860) 214-0937 (cell)
Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut
(860) 384-5875 (cell)