NEW BERN — District Attorney Scott Thomas is warning all residents of Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties to be wary of a variety of crimes that are typically committed following a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Dorian, and to report such crimes as soon as possible.
“Unfortunately, after major storms in our prosecutorial district of Carteret, Craven and Pamlico Counties, scammers show up to commit crimes,” Mr. Thomas said in a Saturday press release. “In the past, we have prosecuted these criminals – and we will do so again…”
Repair scams and fraud
One of the most common crimes committed following a storm is fraud committed by so-called contractors who offer a range of services, from tree cutting and removal, to home repairs, to paving and masonry work.
Often, these persons are unlicensed, andwhile they have a good sales pitch, they are only looking to steal. Once they get a “down payment,” they cash the check and flee, moving on to the next possible victim.
No reputable contractor should require payment up front to purchase materials for a construction project. Homeowners should always check the background of a contractor before entering into any agreement, written or otherwise.
Warning signs of a possible scam include pressure to pay up front, pressure to pay in cash rather than by check or credit card, a lack of a North Carolina phone number, office or work location, an obvious lack of tools, equipment or manpower to undertake the job, a lack of references in this area and a lack of a license issued by the N.C. Licensing Board for General Contractors.
When in doubt, do not pay.
According to the release, sometimes unscrupulous people will pose as representatives for charities and seek donations of cash or property while intending to steal these items.
Before making any charitable donations, take the time to confirm the charity is a reputable one and the donation is going directly to the charity.
Another common report made after hurricanes is of price gouging.
Price gouging, or charging too much in times of crisis, is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared or proclaimed by the governor or a municipality.
The price gouging law is currently in effect after a state of emergency was declared Aug. 31, related to Hurricane Dorian.
Under the law, the attorney general’s office can put a stop to price gouging and seek refunds for consumers who paid too much.
Report price gouging with the online form available at ncdoj.gov/Consumer/2-2-12-File-a-Complaint/Price-Gouging-Complaint.aspx.
Occasionally, there also appear some claims of insurance fraud following a storm. Report insurance fraud to the N.C. Department of Insurance by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-888-680-7684.