Avoid natural disaster scams this hurricane season
Attorney General Josh Stein
The summer months are a great time to get outside and enjoy all the beauty North Carolina has to offer. But summer is also the start of hurricane season, which begins in June and continues through November. We anticipate another busy hurricane season. You need to prepare now to protect yourself from the weather and the scams that come with it. Follow these tips, along with the advice of your local and state authorities, to stay safe this hurricane season and to avoid scams.
Develop an emergency plan. Sit down with your family and discuss emergency preparedness. Familiarize yourself with your city or county’s emergency protocols, such as evacuation routes and the location of crisis shelters. Give special consideration in your plan to those who may need extra care, such as young children, elderly family members, or pets.
Gather essential documents and supplies. If you have to evacuate, you don’t want to waste time searching your home for essentials. Prepare a first aid kit in advance and make sure everyone in the household knows where to find it. Pack items that might be useful in the event of an evacuation, such as a change of clothes, a battery-operated flashlight, and water bottles. Be sure to include important documents (driver’s license, social security card, insurance card, mortgage information, bank documents, unpaid bills and passport) as well as a list of emergency phone numbers. Include our Consumer Protection Division’s number, 1-877-5-NO-SCAM, so you can report scammers in the midst of a natural disaster. Take and keep up-to-date photos of your vehicles and home in case you need to file an insurance claim due to storm damage.
Be on the lookout for price gouging and scams. Scammers often try to capitalize on the destruction of a hurricane. Do not disclose personal information to strangers, even if they claim to represent government agencies. If the governor declares a state of emergency, our statewide price gouging law will take effect. This makes it illegal to charge unfair prices during a crisis, and you must report any instances of price gouging to our office at www.ncdoj.gov/gouging.
Once the storm has passed and you need to repair your home or property, be careful when choosing a contractor or company. Look for reviews online, call my office to verify complaints, and shop around for written estimates from at least three companies. Read the contract carefully before signing and don’t pay the full agreed amount until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
To learn more about how you can prepare for this hurricane season, visit readync.gov. If each of us does our part to prepare, we can all recover more quickly when disaster strikes.
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