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Consumer Affairs office warns against fraudulent charities, home repair scams

11/1/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

SUMMIT COUNTY — Summit County Office of Consumer Affairs (SCOCA) Director Cynthia Sich warned consumers this week to be leery of fraudulent charitable contribution schemes and home repair scams that may appear after damaging winds or flooding.

Consumers should avoid donating money in response to social media messages, Facebook posts, tweets, unsolicited email or websites related to Hurricane Sandy because many of these might be sham requests, according to Sich’s office. It is not uncommon for scammers to use familiar sounding names that mimic legitimate organizations.

The SCOCA suggests contacting the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 to see if a company asking for a donation is registered to fundraise in Ohio or doing an online search at www.ohioat torneygeneral.gov/Charitab leSearch.aspx. It’s important to resist pressure, said Sich. Legitimate charities or fundraisers will send you information about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible, she noted.

Unscrupulous scammers often prey on distraught homeowners after natural disasters, according to the Akron area Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Some of the most common “after-disaster” scams involve auto, home and yard repairs or cleanup, according to the BBB.

The BBB recommends checking with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging or other expenses that may be covered under your policy, the BBB advises.

When choosing a contractor to make repairs, take your time and do not allow yourself to be rushed into making any decisions, suggests Sich.

For major repairs, get at least three or four estimates based on the same specifications and materials, the BBB recommends. Also, consumers can check references, verify licensing and registration and read BBB business reviews at www.akron.bbb.org.

Before hiring any service or contractor for home repairs, including tree care, consumers also can check out the company’s complaint history with the SCOCA by calling 330-643-2879.

The BBB also recommends being wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have leftover materials from a nearby job or who do not have a permanent place of business. The BBB advises exercising caution if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it, the BBB recommends.

Regardless, you need to get everything in writing, avoid huge down payments and never make cash payments until all work is completed to your satisfaction, the SCOCA advises.

More consumer tips are available at www.co.summit.oh.us/conaffairs.htm and www.akron.bbb.org.

Also, residents interested in learning more about safety preparation, or to download publications, may visit www.co.summit.oh.us/executive/emapublibrary.htm.

 

Ariel Hakim contributed to this report.

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