AG: Wildfires can lead to increase in scams

AG: Wildfires can lead to increase in scams

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by Natalie Podgorski

KTVB.COM

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 2 at 6:15 PM

BOISE-- Idaho's attorney general is concerned about all the fires across the West, but it may be for a different reason than you think.

Scam artists target areas hit by natural disasters, like wildfires, and he doesn't want Idahoans to become victims.

Scammers prey on the generosity of others.  So, while the Treasure Valley may be hundreds of miles away from where wildfires have destroyed houses that doesn't mean the Treasure Valley is immune from the scams.

In Idaho, 66 homes were destroyed by the Charlotte Fire in Pocatello.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden knows that people are going to donate to help the fire victims.  He wants to make sure their money goes to the right place.

"Idahoans are generous people," said Brett DeLange, the Division Chief of Consumer Protection Unit at the Attorney General's Office.  "People want to help them and unfortunately there are some who want to take advantage of that."

The Attorney General's Office wants people to be careful donating this fire season.

"It doesn't mean don't help, it doesn't mean don't donate, it means find out who is doing the good work and then send your money directly to them," said DeLange.

DeLange says you should never give money to people who call over the phone.

"Some of these telephone solicitors keep 90 percent of your donation for their own personal profit," said DeLange.

The mayor's office in Pocatello says the Red Cross and United Way of Southeastern Idaho are both collecting donations.

The victims of the Charlotte Fire will face other scams as they rebuild their lives.  They will be forced to deal with contractors, insurance agents and other people offering to help them get their house and life back in order.

"There is going to be incredible pressure to decide very quickly," said DeLange.

The Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau say the best thing people can do is take their time.

"With time you can probably make an informed decision that is to your benefit," said DeLange.

Con artists hate time because it allows people to check to see if their company is registered with the BBB and make sure the licenses are current.  If they are not - it is a red flag.

"Resist dealing with any contractor who says give me money up front," said Robb Hicken with the Better Business Bureau.  Demanding large amounts of cash is a warning sign someone is trying to trick you.

Standard contract rules are that you pay a third down," said Hicken.

So far, no scams have been reported to the Idaho Attorney General's Office.

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