Consumers Warned about Wildfire Scams

The recent wildfires in Colorado also threatens to spark a host of fraudulent activities by scam artists. Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers is warning consumers not to be exploited by these scams and to report any suspicious activity.  The type of scams range from fake charity collections, to home repair and construction fraud.  Consumer may also have problems with their insurance company or mortgage lender during these difficult times.  Consumers are urged to report deceptive practices by calling the AG’s Consumer Complaint Line at 800-222-4444 or filing an online report at www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov.

One particularly disconcerting activity involves charitable giving. People have received robocall solicitations asking them to donate money. There are also reports of people going door-to-door collecting for alleged relief agencies. Reputable organizations like the American Red Cross do not solicit charitable contributions this way.  People should donate directly to known organizations and be wary of supporting sham groups. “We need people to report scams that prey on their good intentions so we can stop these practices.” explained Suthers. 

Another common problem involves home repair fraud.  After natural disasters, scam artists posing as door-to-door repairmen, contactors or handymen will pressure consumers into signing up for alleged great deals on home repairs. Check with the Better Business Bureau and ask for written contracts and references. “People should be skeptical of anyone who shows up at their doorstep offering discounted home repairs and never enter into contracts based on a door-to-door sales pitch. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” advised Suthers.

Insurance fraud takes many forms and most insurance companies employ or contract for their own adjusters to evaluate property damage and assist in filing claims.  However, in Colorado consumers can also hire their own adjusters to help negotiate insurance payments.  Some unscrupulous “public” adjusters will charge an exorbitant fee for their services and then disappear.  Others may refer homeowners to disreputable contractors from whom they get a kickback leaving the homeowner with shoddy repairs. “Consumers should not be fooled by these con artists who gain their trust and personal information like Social Security and credit card numbers to then commit identity theft,” warned Suthers.  Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) is also available to assist with scams involving insurance claims.  Consumers may contact DORA by calling 303-894-7490 or 800-930-3745 or going online to the Division of Insurance

Faced with significant damage or loss of their homes, consumers sometimes overlook their on-going mortgage payments – or with so many new and unexpected expenses, can no longer afford to make those payments.  Consumers should immediately contact their mortgage lender or mortgage servicer to avoid defaulting on their loan and to avoid foreclosure.  “My office is prepared to offer assistance to victims of these devastating fires if they have trouble working with their lenders or servicers while their insurance claims are being resolved,” said Suthers.   

Consumers are urged to report deceptive practices, or problems with their mortgage lenders or servicers, by calling the AG’s Consumer Complaint Line at 800-222-4444 or by filing an online report at www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov.

For additional resources and assistance in selecting a charity or business, please review the following: