Attorney General Josh Shapiro warns Pennsylvanians to be cautious of scams during a major winter storm

March 13, 2017 | Topic: Consumers

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today alerted Pennsylvania consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for scams as an expected major winter storm threatens to blanket much of Pennsylvania tomorrow in more than a foot of snow.

“As the snow piles up, beware of the scam artists,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We want Pennsylvanians to be aware of possible scams and report any suspicious activity to our office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.”

Attorney General Shapiro said the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the past has received complaints from the public following significant snowstorms or natural disasters. The complaints have concerned home repair schemes, snow plow operators, government loan or grant schemes and fraudulent disaster-related fundraising efforts.

In the event that your home or business sustains storm-related damage, Attorney General Shapiro urged Pennsylvanians to remember that home improvement contractors who do more than $5,000 worth of business per year in Pennsylvania are required to register with the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Registrations can be verified by calling 888-520-6680.

Attorney General Shapiro encouraged consumers with questions or problems related to disaster-recovery scams to call OAG’s Bureau of Consumer Protection hotline at 800-441-2555 or go to to file a complaint.

Contractors are also required to provide consumers with specific information before proceeding with any project, including.

  • The contractor’s registration number, which must be included in all contracts, estimates and advertisements.
  • A written contract for any project costing more than $500.
  • Information about the consumers’ three-day right to cancel a home improvement contract.
  • Details about the materials and labor included in the project.
  • Total sales price.
  • A specific starting and ending date for the project.

“People whose homes have been damaged by a storm are looking for speedy repairs, but it’s important to do your due diligence and research the contractor you are considering before any work is performed,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro explained that Pennsylvania’s Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act limits the amount of any up-front payments that contractors can collect. For projects costing more than $5,000, contractors may not accept advance payment of more than one-third of the total price of the contract.

Shapiro encouraged consumers to be wary of individuals who approach you with stories of “just being in the neighborhood” or other unsolicited offers that seem “too good to be true.”

Here are other warning signs for potential home repair scams:

  • Unsolicited door-to-door sales pitches.
  • Requests for large up-front payments.
  • No written estimates or contracts.
  • Offers to perform work using “left over” or “discount” materials from other jobs.
  • High-pressure sales pitches.

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