BATON ROUGE, LA – The Atlantic Hurricane Season opens tomorrow, June 1 and runs through November 30; and Attorney General Jeff Landry is reminding Louisiana citizens to be vigilant in preparing to weather any storm that may impact our State.
“Unfortunately, Louisiana knows all too well the damage that can be caused by natural disasters and the con artists trying to profit off of them,” said General Landry. “So I am encouraging the people of our State to get prepared and be aware of potential scams and ways to avoid becoming victims of them.”
General Landry is urging residents to:
- Become familiar with the evacuation routes in their areas, as well as shelter locations;
- Keep important documents in a safe place and consider creating password-protected digital copies;
- Review their insurance policies;
- Protect their properties by taking preventive measures such as decluttering drains and gutters, installing check valves in plumbing to prevent backups, and ensuring hurricane shutters are operable;
- Maintain necessary supplies for at least three days and keep in mind each family member’s specific needs, including the needs of pets;
- Keep their cars in good working condition;
- When a hurricane is near, keep their gas tanks full and their vehicles stocked with emergency supplies and changes of clothes;
- Develop communications plan with family members if power is lost and remember that text messages may be more reliable and faster than phone calls during disasters.
General Landry also encourages consumers to make fraud awareness an important part of their hurricane safety and preparedness plans this season by becoming familiar with the following common disaster-related scams:
- Identity Theft – Safeguard personal information in the event of an evacuation. Take sensitive personal documents with you or put them in a secure, waterproof location such as a safe deposit box or home safe. Personal information items may include passports, credit cards, checkbooks, car registrations, home title, insurance contracts, college degrees, health insurance cards, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and marriage licenses.
- Home Repair Scams – Check credentials before hiring someone to repair damaged home. Verify potential contractors by calling the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at 800-256-1392. Get at least three written estimates and make sure each contractor bids on exactly the same work. Always require the contractor to show proof of workman’s compensation and general liability insurance. Do not agree to a large down payment. Get a contract in writing and keep a copy of it in a safe place. Pay by check or money order and keep all receipts.
- Price Gouging – Report suspected price gouging to local law enforcement. Price gouging is the increase in prices or value for goods and services that are higher than the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods and services at or immediately before the time of the state of emergency. A price gouging ban is placed on an area following the declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor or Parish President. This ban can remain in effect up to 30 days after the state of emergency ends. Price gouging is not attributable to verifiable market fluctuations and usually involves gasoline, hotels, and generators.
- Phony Emergency Response Officials – Watch out for con-artists posing as government officials or insurance adjusters. Verify validity of people claiming to be government officials or insurance adjusters by asking for and confirming proper identification. Do not give out any information until you have checked with the actual agency or insurance company the person claims to represent. Never give cash on the spot to any individual who shows up claiming to be an insurance agent or disaster aid worker.
- Fake Charities – Make sure the charity is legitimate before donating. Visit www.guidestar.org to find out if the charity is actually an IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Contact General Landry’s Charitable Registration Section, the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Corporations Database, and the Better Business Bureau before you donate.
Finally, General Landry advises all Louisiana residents to visit www.AGJeffLandry.com/EmergencyPreparedness for more helpful resources – especially contact information for the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), which monitors fraud complaints and assigns them to the appropriate agency for further action. The NCDF Hotline is 866-720-5721.