Oregon Department of Justice

Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

Oregon Department of Justice - Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum
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AG WARNS OREGONIANS OF DISASTER-RELATED SCAMS & SCHEMES

November 8, 2006

Attorney General Warns Oregonians Of Disaster-Related Scams Expected In The Next Few Days

Other types of illegal activities will surface over the next few weeks

Attorney General Hardy Myers today warned Oregonians of the types of scams to expect in the next few days as flood waters continue to rise and more heavy rains are expected over the weekend. He also alerted residents to the disaster con artists that will arrive after the rains stop and the water starts to recede.

"As courageous volunteers rush to the aid of neighbors and residents of their communities during this week's flooding, the Oregon Department of Justice would be negligent if it did not warn citizens of con artists, who will attempt to scam those already devastated by personal losses," Myers said.

"As communities pull together and we see an increase in cooperation, we also will see an increase in fraudulent activities. We want consumers to recognize these unscrupulous attempts to take their money in the wake of a terrible situation and report them to authorities immediately."

Consumers and businesses may report suspect activity by calling the Attorney General's hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only), or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Complaints can be filed online at www.doj.state.or.us. Hotline hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.

  • Fraudulent telemarketers have been known to call into "disaster areas" within hours of the devastation. Many will be selling emergency kits, water testing devices and water filters, sometimes offering a prize if you buy today. Most telemarketers must register with the Oregon Department of Justice. Try to obtain a name and/or phone numbers and check them out by calling the Attorney General's consumer hotline.
  • In between rain showers, consumers can expect con artists going door to door in flood-affected areas. They also sell emergency kits, water filters and have been known to appear in official-looking uniforms as representatives of County maintenance crews, staff to county officials, and law enforcement. Consumers should never buy from strangers selling at their door before thoroughly checking them out. Don't let them in your house and instead ask them to leave something in writing on your porch. You can retrieve it later.
  • Phony clean-up crews and tree-cutting services also may show up at your door or business. Some will ask you to sign up for assistance now and pay a deposit because they expect to be swamped with customers down the road.
  • Government representatives wanting to assist flood victims to qualify for disaster relief payments should be checked out carefully. In other states, phony public officials reportedly took "processing fees" and were never seen again.
  • Be wary of telephone calls from scammers alleging to represent charities. Know your charity before giving any money. Appeals for blankets, food and money for flood victims could be totally bogus. Non-profit charitable corporations and professional fundraisers, who oftentimes contract with charities, must be registered with the Charitable Activities section of the Oregon Department of Justice. Call the Portland office of Charitable Activities at (971) 673-1880 or check for Oregon registered charities online at www.doj.state.or.us. Nationally, check on charitable organizations at www.guidestar.org. Donate to established charities with disaster relief experience to ensure that contributions reach the intended recipients.
  • When the rain stops and the waters recede, Oregonians begin assessing individual damage and begin looking for construction and landscape contractors. Watch for unlicensed construction and landscape contractors promising immediate, cheap home repair and yard cleanup. Oftentimes, they want upfront money and will either do a bad job or ask for a cash deposit and never return to do the work. Consumers wanting to verify a contractor's license may call (503) 378-4621 or online at www.oregon.gov/ccb. Landscape contractor's licenses also may be verified by calling (503) 986-6561 or online at www.oregon.gov/lcb/licensing.shtml. Businesses and consumers should only deal with licensed and bonded contractors and should check on complaint histories and ask for references before ever giving them money.
  • Price Gouging. Although Oregon does not have a price gouging law, the Unlawful Trade Practices Act prohibits unconscionable practices. Businesses, who take advantage of consumers' extreme needs during a disaster, should be reported by calling the Attorney General's consumer hotline.

Contact:

Stephanie Soden, (503) 378-6002
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) jan.margosian@doj.state.or.us |
Victoria Cox, (971) 673-1880
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