Montana AG warns of flood scams

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HELENA — Attorney General Austin Knudsen is encouraging Montana residents to take precautions and be aware of scam artists looking to take advantage of those who begin repairing their homes and businesses in the wake of recent flooding in the state.

It’s highly likely that with the severe flooding many Montanans have experienced recently, fraudulent contractors posing as professionals are looking to make a quick buck off the misfortune of others, Knudsen said in a news release Friday. .

It also warns would-be scammers: The Justice Department’s Criminal Investigations Division investigates cases of suspected scams that can result in serious penalties for the perpetrator, including jail time. For example, a man was sentenced to a total of 160 years (65 years in prison followed by 95 years probation) last year for his multi-county contractor programs in Montana.

“As homeowners and business owners begin to repair their properties following recent flooding, fraudsters will no doubt use this as an opportunity to prey on unsuspecting Montanese. Please do your homework to avoid scams,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Con artists who take advantage of the Montanans will be investigated, prosecuted and face possible jail time.”

Before finding a contractor or starting work, Montanese must contact their home insurance company.

For more information on finding a qualified contractor, visit the Montana Department of Justice website at https://dojmt.gov/consumer/choosing-a-contractor/.

To avoid being scammed by a contractor, the Montana Department of Justice Consumer Protection Office suggests:

Research your project: know what the job entails and prepare a detailed list of the work to be done as well as the types and costs of the materials to be used;

Obtain the names of several contractors: Friends and neighbors who have undertaken similar projects, trade associations, and hardware, building supply and home improvement stores can be good sources of reputable contractors;

Reference checks: try to get at least three references from real clients, not just people who know the contractor personally;

Obtain written offers for your work: obtain at least two or three written offers for your project; never accept a verbal estimate; and

Compare offers: check carefully to make sure each offer includes everything you want; Remember that less reputable contractors may take shortcuts to lower their bids.

To report a scam, contact the DOJ’s Office of Consumer Protection at https://app.doj.mt.gov/OCPPortal/?q=node/396, [email protected], or (406) 444-4500 or toll free at (800) 481-6896.

During times of natural disasters, scammers also pretend to be from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA provides these reminders to avoid a copycat:

Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money. Do not trust anyone who offers financial assistance and then asks for money or personal information.

Do not disclose information to unsolicited phone calls and emails from people claiming to be FEMA or federal government employees. FEMA will only contact you if you have called FEMA first or requested assistance.

FEMA officials will ask you for social security and bank account numbers when you apply and may ask for them again after you apply. Be careful when giving this information to others who ask for it. Scammers may pose as government officials, aid workers, or employees of an insurance company.

Ask to see ID badges. ALL FEMA representatives wear an identification badge with a photograph. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity.

For more information about FEMA programs and potential FEMA scams, visit https://www.fema.gov/assistance/individual/program. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) also has programs related to natural disasters – find more information on http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/water/operations/floodplain-management/disaster-and-recovery.

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