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Attorney general warns of potential hurricane scam

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, the Office of Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler is telling residents to be wary of home repair scams and other consumer fraud.

On Aug. 29, Gansler's office said damaging storms are often followed by scam artists who promise to perform home improvement work and then don't. The office warned against people who use high-pressure sales tactics, demand up-front payment and demand an immediate decision on work.

The attorney general advised homeowners and businesses that before signing on for work:

• Check to see if a contractor is licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission by calling 410-230-6309 or going to http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic. Consumers can also ask the commission about the contractor's complaint history.

• Deal only with contractors who have an established Maryland business.

• Obtain at least three bids for major repair work and check references. Be cautious if one bid is much lower than the others.

• Make sure all important details concerning the work are written into the bid and contract.

The office also cautioned about phony relief efforts, fraudulent charities and scam artists who use the name of an organization similar to a well-known charity.

Consumers should avoid making cash donations and always make checks payable to the organization, not the individual soliciting.

Residents can check that a charity is registered with the state by calling 410-974-5534 or 1-800-825-4510

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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