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After the Flood - Be Wary of Scammers Attracted by FEMA Payments
The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
Flood and other weather disasters take an emotional, physical, and often a financial toll on all affected. Whatever the type of disaster – affected homeowners want to repair the damage right away to get back to a sense of normalcy. And with a flood, when acting quickly to avoid further problems such as mold infestation can be important, or when the availability of FEMA payments to flood victims is in the news, a weather disaster is an invitation to unscrupulous scammers seeking to take advantage of otherwise careful consumers. Don’t lose FEMA disaster payments to fraudulent contractors or otherwise let the aftermath of a flood turn into an opportunity for scams.
For Emergency Help Information and Shelter Resources: Phone the 211 line United Way referral service, or the local Red Cross at 1-800-774-6066 (Southeastern Michigan Regional Chapter) or visit: http://www.redcross.org/mi/detroit/about/contact.
Avoid Being Scammed
To avoid falling victim to con artists who often travel to disaster sites in order to take advantage of homeowners desperate to return to “normal,” make sure you take the following steps:
Under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, a provider of goods or services used primarily for personal or household purposes may not charge a price that is "grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold." Unfortunately, weather disasters and other unpredictable conditions can trigger suddenly higher prices. Consumers should be careful when faced with these sudden price spikes, as not all providers may have raised their prices or raised them to the same level. And, if consumers have evidence of grossly excessive prices, we encourage that they contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-765-8388 and file an online complaint at www.michigan.gov/ag. Specific information that would be helpful to provide include details of the specific item or service at issue, the business selling the item or service, the exact price charged, prices being charged by other businesses for the same or similar services, and a copy of the receipt if you purchased the goods or services at issue.
After the flood has passed, an unfortunate aftermath may be a flood of water-damaged vehicles on the used car market. Floods can damage vital parts of a car including airbag sensors, brakes, and electrical system – and the damage may not show up right away. Be on the lookout for used car sale offers that seem ‘too good to be true.’ Before purchasing, have the vehicle inspected by an independent, competent automotive technician who has no relation to the seller. Also check the vehicle history through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System established by the Department of Justice at www.vehiclehistory.gov. A Consumer Alert with additional information on how to protect against purchasing a flood damaged vehicle is available at: http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337_20942_21106-294095--,00.html .
TO FILE A COMPLAINT
Complaints against a licensed builder may be filed with the Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs, Bureau of Commercial Services, Enforcement Division. Complaint filing instructions and complaint form available at online at: http://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-35299---,00.html. If the contractor is not licensed and is required to be, contact your local authorities, because failure to obtain a license may constitute a violation of criminal law.
Those who suspect fraud are also encouraged to report it to the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721.
Other complaints may be filed with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:
Consumer Protection Division
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