Consumer Alert: Beware of Scams After the Storm

It's bad enough that many homeowners are dealing with damage from back-to-back winter storms.

Now, the Pennsylvania attorney general warns that they could fall prey to scammers, too.

Josh Shapiro says his office often gets complaints from the public about scammers after storms and snowfalls -- including reports of fraudulent home repair schemes, snow plow operators, tree removal operators, government loan schemes and disaster-related fundraisers.

"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.

He warned consumers to watch for unsolicited door-to-door sales pitches, particularly from people who say they were "in the neighborhood."

Another red flag: requests for large up-front payments. If a project costs more than $5,000, state law prohibits contractors from asking for more than one-third of the cost up front.

He also warned against high-pressure sales pitches and contractors who don't give a written estimate.

In Pennsylvania, contractors are required to provide consumers with the following information, Shapiro said: 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; total sales price, and a starting and ending date for the project.

Also, consumers have the right to cancel any home improvement contract within three days, and contractors are required to tell consumers that.

Shapiro's office has a help line for consumers who have questions: 1-800-441-2555. And if you need to file a complaint, you can do so here.

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