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Quincy - Attorney General Lisa Madigan today urged residents of communities impacted by flooding to protect themselves from home repair con artists eager to exploit natural disasters for personal profit.
Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer, Quincy Mayor John Spring, and other officials joined the Attorney General at her Regional Office in Quincy to residents with flood-damaged property that home repair scam artists frequently swoop in after storms or floods to take advantage of people scrambling to make repairs. Madigan noted that these “storm chasers” try to catch people when they are desperate and pressure them into making a quick, often expensive, decision.
To spread the word to families and businesses to be cautious of storm chasers, Madigan announced that the Illinois Sheriff’s Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association are partnering with her office to distribute posters with tips to avoid home repair scams to retailers and law enforcement agencies in counties affected by flooding.
“As flood victims in Quincy and the surrounding communities face the daunting task of repairing their homes and businesses, it’s critical to be on the lookout for con artists moving into the area to take advantage of people during this very difficult time,” Attorney General Madigan said. “I am pleased to be partnering with the Illinois Sheriff’s Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association to spread this important message and help people avoid consumer fraud.”
“We are happy to do our part to help Attorney General Madigan prevent flood victims from being taken advantage of by people pretending to offer assistance,” said David F. Vite, president/CEO of IRMA. “Illinois families need to work with reputable Illinois businesses so they do not become victims a second time, and distributing these posters will help in that effort.”
Attorney General Madigan urged consumers to alert both her office and local law enforcement if suspicious storm chasers begin soliciting in the area. She also warned consumers and business owners to take extra caution before contracting to have damaged or destroyed property repaired or rebuilt and not to rush in to contractual agreements or make large down payments.
“In this critical time, I appreciate that Attorney General Madigan has set her sights on these predatory scam artists so that flood victims can protect themselves from being victimized once again after the flooding subsides,” Sheriff Fischer said. “It is essential that we join in this effort to ensure we get the word out to our communities.”
“Far too often, we see man-made disasters follow natural disasters. Scam artists know how to take advantage of the emotional aftermath of major storms and persuade people to make snap decisions for repairing their home or business,” Attorney General Madigan said.
Attorney General Madigan offered the following tips to help protect individuals and companies from being duped by dishonest contractors:
Attorney General Madigan reminded consumers that the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act requires contractors to furnish customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor.
The law also requires contractors to carry at least minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet entitled “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights.”
Attorney General Madigan added that some scam artists even attempt to impersonate government agencies. In recent years, media reports in the wake of major storms and tornadoes indicated that consumers were called by someone falsely claiming to be associated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and requested bank account information from the consumer that would assist with the repair of their storm-damaged home.
“Consumers should never give out personal or financial information over the telephone,” Attorney General Madigan said.
For additional information on how to avoid consumer scams, visit www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov. If consumers suspect storm chasers are attempting to scam residents in their area, Attorney General Madigan urged them to call the Consumer Fraud Hotline:
(800) 386-5438 (Chicago)