Consumer Alert

Attorney General Josh Shapiro Warns Pennsylvanians to be Cautious of Scams following Winter Storm Quinn

March 7, 2018 | Topic: Consumers

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro is alerting Pennsylvania residents and businesses to be on the lookout for scams as another nor’easter winter storm blankets parts of Pennsylvania in snowfall. The latest weather – Winter Storm Quinn – is expected to leave between eight and 12 inches of snow throughout much of southeast Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.

“As this latest snowstorm hits sections of Pennsylvania, consumers should beware of scam artists,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We want Pennsylvanians to be aware of scams and report any suspicious activity or their concerns to my Bureau of Consumer Protection.”

Attorney General Shapiro said the Bureau of Consumer Protection has received complaints from the public after previous storms and major snowfalls. The complaints involve home repair schemes, snow plow operators, tree removal operators, government loan schemes and fraudulent disaster-related fundraising efforts.

If your home or business sustains storm-related damage, Attorney General Shapiro reminded Pennsylvanians 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 at https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/resources/home-improvement-contractor-registration/.

“If you have a question or concern about a contractor or vendor seeking your business after these storms, call our Consumer Protection helpline or file a complaint,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We’re here to help you.”

The Consumer Protection helpline is 1-800-441-2555. Consumers can file complaints athttps://www.attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/.

Contractors are required to provide consumers with specific information before proceeding with repair projects, 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’ right to cancel any home improvement contract within 3 days.
  • Total sales price, and a starting and ending date for the project.

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

Pennsylvania’s Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act limits the amount of 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 cost of the contract, Shapiro said.

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

Here are several other warning signs for potential home repair scams after a storm:

  • Unsolicited door-to-door sales pitches.
  • Requests for large up-front payments.
  • No written estimate provided.
  • High-pressure sales pitches.

“Exercise some old-fashioned common sense, listen to the contractor’s offer – and get the offer in writing,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Stay safe and warm during the storm and remember – my office is here to protect you from scams.”

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