Scams, price gouging and other tips: What you need to know before the storm
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Hurricanes don’t just bring whipping winds and torrential downpours, but they can attract people looking to take advantage of storm survivors.
The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs warns that scammers can and will follow the headlines.
“Even if we don’t get a ton of damage, any type of flooding, any type of damage that may happen after a storm, scammers are going to come out act like government agency, state agency, insurance providers, repair, people contractors, they’ll act like anyone they can to try and get your information and money,” SCDCA Communications director Bailey Parker said.
Parker warns that people should be wary of any “agency” going door-to-door following the storm, as that is not the usual way FEMA, Red Cross or a similar agency would get in touch.
If someone does identify themselves as a representative of such an organization they should be able to produce official identification.
Parker also says that you should not give out any personal information, including your sensitive financial information or social security number.
If someone says they were sent by your insurance company, you should also verify with the company first. Make sure to do your homework on contractors offering to do work, they should be licensed, bonded and insured. You can check this with the state’s Labor, Licensing and Regulation department or ask for the information from that company.
Finally, verify that charities asking for money are legit. The SC Secretary of State requires charities to register, which you can double-check here. Parker warns that charity scams often mimic the names of well-known programs.
“Be very wary of GoFundMe or any type of fundraisers that are specifically on social media. You don’t know where that money is going to,” Parker said.
If you feel as though you’ve been a victim of a scam you should report it to SCDCA, especially if your personal information may have been compromised.
“Identity theft is going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars if not ruin your life,” Parker said.
Price gouging law now in effect
The state’s price gouging law is now in effect, as made possible by Governor Henry Mcmaster’s declaration of a state of emergency on Tuesday.
The Attorney General’s Office takes reports of “unconscionable” price increases. This does not include normal price fluctuations in the market.
The AG’s Office asks that consumers report these with as much information as possible to email@example.com or by calling 803-737-3953.
Consumers are asked to include all of the following information:
- Time, place, address, and name of the gas station or business
- The price you paid
- Note any prices nearby and get the names and addresses of those stations or businesses
- Take pictures that identify the business, along with the price
- Provide your name and contact information for follow-up
If charged with excessive pricing, a misdemeanor, an accused price gouger can face a $1,000 fine as well as 30 days in jail.
It’s also important for consumers to know the most important preps, come before the storm.
“When these high winds and large quantities of water come by, it usually will expose where there’s like weaknesses in already existing roofs,” 5 Stars roofing project manager Daniel Coyle said.
Coyle says the company offers free inspections, which most roofing companies should do, and recommends homeowners take advantage before storms roll through.
The inspection can help with many things, including weaknesses already in your roof and insurance claims.
if a storm does cause damage, the prior inspection will help to prove this and get your claim paid.
Inspections normally take about 15 to 20 minutes.
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