Ruthless Winter Storm Scam Montanans Should Know About
One of the marks of a true Montanan is someone who will come out in a snowstorm and help you out.
I've heard story after story of one Montanan helping another when a car was stuck in a snowbank, or a car battery died. Montana winters can be harsh and it's not just being nice, in some circumstances, it can be a matter of survival.
It's hard to think that something like the weather could bring out the scammers but these days, new scams pop up on days that end in "Y."
New Scam Alert from the Federal Trade Commission
In the "consumer advice" section of the Federal Trade Commission website, a notice has been posted about winter-related scams. Turns out that storms are an opportune time for con artists to take advantage of people.
Think about what happens during a storm. Maybe there's blowing snow and wind and it takes out a power line. When this happens, usually a utility professional will come and fix the problem/equipment but this is an opportunity for scammers. From the FTC:
Utility imposters work year-round, but after a storm, they might call or knock on your door saying they need to repair or replace equipment. Then they'll ask you to pay. - consumer.ftc.gov
That's when, the FTC says, you shouldn't pay them.
These scams have led to things like scammers:
- not completing the work
- charging for work that wasn't completed
"Clean-up and repair scams" are common after any kind of storm, not just winter storms. But this can go the other way too. These scams can lead to fake jobs for people who want to help after a storm.
Tips for Avoiding Weather-Related Scams
Cash: It may be counterintuitive but the FTC recommends paying in cash--that way there's a paper trail and a chance you might get your money back if you are the victim of a scam.
Credentials: They also recommend checking on the things you might confirm with any contractor--do they have a license and insurance?
Resources: If looking for storm-recovery work only consult legitimate sites, like those associated with the U.S. Department of Labor, the state or the county.
LOOK: Biggest snowfalls recorded in Montana history
Gallery Credit: Stacker