Avoiding snow storm scams

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – For people stuck in their driveways or neighborhoods, the snow just isn't melting fast enough either. That's no excuse though to accept any offer for help that comes your way. Scam artists use storms like this weekend's to take advantage of people in need.

There's always somebody willing to do the work you can't or won't do. If you need help clearing your driveway or removing limbs weighted down by snow, don't just hire the first guy who knocks on your door.

Yes, it's a happy time with the season's first snowfall. Picturesque winter scene and merry moments at play with friends...and then, reality kicks in. There's work to be done. The scraping. The shoveling. Trying work around all that snow.

"You need to take all the precautions that you would for something where it wasn't an emergency situation," said Elaine Lindholm with the Virginia Office of Consumer Services.

If you're driveway is impassable, somebody who isn't the kid down the street could just appear, offering to dig you out, and pressuring you to pay up fast.

"There are people who literally tour neighborhoods looking for damage and then saying... Boy, are you lucky I was just doing a house down the street here and since I'm already in the neighborhood, I can give you a special price and I can do the work right now, can you pay me in cash," said Lindholm.

Whether you need to remove hanging limbs or repair damage created by wind, snow and ice, the experts says don't accept anything you can't get in writing and have to pay cash for. That way you keep the upper hand.

"All of that takes a little time and the scam artist knows that, and they take advantage of that," she said.

Lindholm also suggests you pay close attention to the people normally do business with in storm situations. When the governor declared a state of emergency, Virginia's anti-price gouging law kicked in, covering basic needs when storms wreak havoc.

"It says if prices go up considerably or significantly higher all of a sudden, then that may be a problem," Lindholm.

If you are approached by a con man or feel like you've been ripped off by a service provider, you can contact the state office of Consumer Services. To file a complaint, just click here.

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