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AG warns of post-disaster scams

May 1, 2014

For Daily Times Leader

Attorney General Jim Hood reminds recent storm victims of the dangers that come from crooked contractors following disasters and storm damage like the State has recently seen.
Following the cycles of recent storms, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office (MSAGO) and the Mississippi State Board of Contractors (MSBOC) are joining forces to send a message to crooked contractors that bad business will not be tolerated in the Magnolia State and violators will be prosecuted.
“Our thoughts go out to our friends and neighbors around the state who have been impacted by the recent storms,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “As usual after such widespread damage occurs, crooks will be on the prowl looking to take advantage of the misfortune of vulnerable homeowners. Before you hire someone to repair any damage to your property, be sure to educate yourself on how to best protect yourself.”
“We caution storm victims to know who you are dealing with and do not hire the first contractor who comes along,” said Stephanie Sills Lee, Executive Director for the MSBOC. “Take your time and protect yourself against con artists who will take your money and run or from unskilled contractors who will perform careless work.”
Most of the common “after-disaster” scams involve tree damage caused by the storm. Here are some tips to protect yourself from fraudulent tree cutters:
n Check out the company and make sure the company is insured. Contact our Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi to see if they have complaints against the company. Ask for several local references that are recent of at least one year-old and make sure to follow through on checking them. Look online at reviews of their work. If a tree removal service claims to have insurance, contact the insurer directly and ask them to send you a copy of the tree removal service’s certificate of insurance.
n Take time to shop around and be suspicious of any price that seems unusually high or low. Get written estimates from more than one company and check with friends or family who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they would recommend.
n Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards. Pay attention to their “lingo” such as, “topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree” If you hear these sayings, the company more than likely does not follow industry standards. “Topping” is drastically cutting back the major limbs of a tree to reduce its size. “Lion’s tailing” is an extreme stripping out of most of the interior branches of a tree. Such practices can injure or kill your tree. Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time. However a tree pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.
n Ask about cleaning up and the debris removal after the job is done. Before the job is started, ask if the company will remove the tree from your property as well as cut it down because if they don’t, it could lead to you having to also pay for debris removal.

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