October 31, 2014

‘Storm chasers’ seek to scam residents in disaster situations (AUDIO)

There’s a different kind of “storm chaser” that has nothing to do with getting twisters on video. They are scammers looking for a quick buck while taking advantage of people whose homes have been compromised in storms.

Attorney General’s counsel Joe Bindbeutel says they’re called storm chasers because they go into areas devastated by recent disasters and prey upon people who might be in desperate and stressful situations.

He’s warning residents to be on the lookout for fake contractors, scammers, and price gougers. Bindbeutel advises consumers to take their time, work with their insurance companies and get several estimates. He says a quick cash handout is money out the window.

“The hallmark of those scams, frankly, is a contractor who is in a hurry, a businessman who is in a hurry,” Bindbeutel says. “They want you to act right now, it’s a limited time offer, it’s an emergency — anything to pressure the consumer into making a quick decision is the hallmark of those sorts of scams.”

And he says scammers will typically target those perceived to be weak, such as the elderly, disabled, or people whose homes have been compromised. He urges anyone with concerns about a possible scammer to contact their local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office. You can also call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 (Outside MO: 573-751-3321) for more information about filing a complaint.

“They may look like tradesman, they may look like businessmen, they may wear a toolbelt,” Bindbeutel says, “but they do not intend to provide any service whatsoever.”

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports. (1:15)