www.law.gerogia.gov, August 30, 2023
ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr is warning Georgia residents to be on the lookout for possible price gouging and storm-related scams in the wake of Hurricane Idalia.
“As we continue to pray for the families and communities in the path of Hurricane Idalia, we want to remind all Georgians of the important steps they can take to protect themselves from home repair fraud and other schemes,” said Carr. “Con artists will try to take advantage of those impacted by severe weather. We know this is a difficult time for many, and our office stands ready to assist any consumer who thinks they have encountered a potential scam.”
On Aug. 29, 2023, Governor Brian Kemp issued a State of Emergency for all of Georgia in preparation for Hurricane Idalia's anticipated impact. This Executive Order invokes the Price Gouging Statute as it pertains to goods and services necessary to respond to the State of Emergency, including motor and diesel fuel. These price gouging protections will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Sep. 8, 2023.
For more information about price gouging, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website here.
When bad storms cause widespread damage to homes, criminals may try to exploit the disaster. These scam artists, often referred to as “storm chasers,” may ask homeowners for up-front payments for home repair service and then disappear without ever doing the work. In other cases, scammers may charge exorbitant prices for tree removal, charge you for unnecessary repairs or do substandard work. Sometimes scammers offer to cover the homeowner’s insurance deductible and persuade them to give fake reports to the insurance company, potentially implicating the homeowner in a case of insurance fraud.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following tips to help consumers avoid scams and other fraud in the aftermath of a storm.
Steer clear of any contractor who asks for full payment up-front, only accepts payment in cash, or refuses to provide you with a written contract.
Avoid door-to-door offers for home repair work. Instead, ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
Be skeptical of any contractor that offers to pay your insurance deductible or offers other no-cost incentives, as these can be signs of a scam. Always talk to your insurance company before committing to any storm-related repairs or inspections.
Ask contractors for references and check them out.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the business.
Ensure that the contractor has the required licensing and/or affiliation:
Tree Removal: Check with the International Society of Arboriculture to make sure the person has a valid arborist license.
Water Damage and Mold: Only hire businesses that are local and qualified in mold remediation and property restoration. To find local contractors and restorers, check with the Society of Cleaning and Restoration Technicians and the Restoration Industry Association.
Contractors: General contractors, electricians, plumbers, and heating and air conditioning contractors must be licensed with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. To look up a contractor, visit sos.ga.gov. Please note that certain specialty occupations such as roofers, tree removal services, painters, drywall contractors and repair handymen are not required to be licensed by the state.
Legitimate contractors should be able to provide the following:
General liability insurance
Workers compensation insurance
Written manufacturer warranties
Written labor warranties
Public adjusters are also required to carry a license to do work in Georgia. Call the Insurance Commissioner’s Office at 1-800-656-2298 to verify if a public adjuster is licensed and that their contract has been approved before hiring them to do any work on your behalf.
For additional information about storm fraud, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division website here.
Reporting Contacts and Other Resources
If you think you may have been the victim of a scam or price gouging, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (toll-free in Georgia). Consumers can also file an online complaint here.
If you believe a roofer or other contractor has committed insurance fraud, file a report with the Insurance Commissioner’s Office here or call 404-656-2070 or 1-800-656-2298.
If you have trouble making contact with or receiving a timely response from your insurance company or if you have questions about your insurance policy, call 1-800-656-2298 or visit the Insurance Commissioner’s website here.
Those directly impacted by the storm's path are encouraged to consult the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency’s informational website that includes tips on storm preparedness before, during and after a hurricane.