Oklahoma AG Warns of Fraud in Storm-Damaged Areas

May 16, 2008

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office is warning consumers in areas battered by recent storms to beware of fraudsters seeking to take advantage of storm weary property owners.

Investigators in the AG’s Consumer Protection Unit are in northeastern Oklahoma offering investigative assistance and fraud prevention information to local and county law enforcement.

“This area of the state has been battered by storms and tornados this spring,” Edmondson said. “Our investigators will visit with county sheriffs and local police departments to offer our assistance and to bring them up to speed on statutes that can prove beneficial in preventing fraud and tracking down those who seek to further victimize Oklahomans.”

Edmondson said home repair fraud is of particular concern.

“We have prosecuted unscrupulous repair men for scamming storm victims in the past,” Edmondson said. “A group commonly called travelers are known to follow storms across the country and look to profit from the misfortune of others. We are making sure our local and county law enforcement partners know about Oklahoma’s Transient Merchant Licensing Act and how it can be used to weed out bogus operators.”

The transient merchant statute requires all non-local businesses to obtain a license from the county court clerk before providing goods and services in a particular county.

The attorney general said storm victims must also be aware of identity theft.

“Because of the severity of the storms, documents may have been lost that contain the financial and personal information a thief needs to steal a victim’s identity,” Edmondson said. “We’ve already received a report that documents from Picher have been found in Missouri.”

According to Edmondson, the president’s recent disaster declaration triggers Oklahoma’s price gouging statute in 23 counties. Oklahoma’s price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services when a state of emergency has been declared.

Source: Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office

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