5 THINGS TO KNOW: What are some common disaster related scams and how to avoid them

Apr. 30—The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office gives tips on how consumers who were affected by recent severe weather can avoid fraud. More information can be found by visiting oag.ok.gov/consumer-protection.

1 What is price gouging?

Price gouging refers to the sudden and often dramatic increase in the price of goods and/or services that are in demand following such disasters. Common examples include food and water, hotel rooms, rental cars and building materials.

The Emergency Price Stabilization Act only goes into effect after the emergency is declared by the governor. The Act prohibits the sale, rental or lease (or offers to sell, rent or lease) of most goods, services, dwelling units or storage space at a price or rate greater than 10 percent above the price or rate charged immediately prior to the declaration.

2 What are some "red flags" to potential home repair fraud?

The contractor approaches you in person or contacts you by phone without being solicited. Be especially suspicious of door-to-door solicitations.

The contractor does not have a local address and arrived to the area following the disaster.

The contractor claims to have materials left over from a previous job and offers to use them on your project for a steep discount.

3 How do I avoid charity fraud?

Donate only to charities that you know and trust. Be wary of charities that seem to have been formed specifically in response to a particular disaster.

Listen carefully to the name of the purported charity.

Be suspicious of any solicitor that uses high pressure or aggressive tactics, asks for donations in cash or promises prizes in exchange for a donation.

4 What is the advance fee loan scam?

Many disaster victims will need quick access to money in order to purchase essentials or rebuild a storm-damaged home or business. For those who cannot rely on credit cards or other traditional forms of credit, scam artists may offer the promise of "guaranteed" loans based upon the payment up-front fees, regardless of the applicant's credit history. No legitimate entity will make this promise.

5 How can I make a complaint?

Consumer representatives with the OAG can be reached by calling 1-833-681-1895 or by emailing ConsumerProtection@oag.ok.gov. A complaint form can be downloaded by visiting oag.ok.gov/consumer-protection.

—Derrick James