Attorney General Kane Warns of Winter Storm Scams

HARRISBURG, Pa. – As Pennsylvanians tackle major snowstorms in the days ahead, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane yesterday cautioned consumers to be on the lookout for weather-related scams.

“Heavy snow and wind can cause significant damage to property,” Kane said. “Any time we have a major storm, opportunistic con artists may follow up with promises that sound too good to be true.”

Attorney General Kane encouraged Commonwealth residents to heed the advice of local officials, emergency responders and utility providers during any winter storm, and to be vigilant after a storm when contractors come calling.

All home repair contractors are required to provide consumers with the following information before proceeding with any project:

– Contractor registration number on all estimates and contracts.
– A written contract for any project costing more than $500.
– Information about the consumer’s three-day right to cancel a home improvement contract.
– Details about the materials and labor included in the project.
– Total price.
– Approximate start and end date for the project.

Kane said consumers should guard against those contractors who require full payment in advance of services or pressure them to quickly sign a contract.

Pennsylvania’s Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act limits the amount of any upfront payments that contractors can collect. Contractors may not accept advance payment of more than one-third of the total price for projects costing more than $5,000.

All home improvement contractors who do more than $5,000 worth of business per year in Pennsylvania are required to register with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. However, registration is not an endorsement of the contractor’s honesty or quality of work.

To help consumers contract reputable home repair services, Kane offered the following tips:

– Secure multiple estimates for any major project.
– Check a contractor’s references before signing any contract.
– Ensure that the contract includes liability and personal insurance coverage.
– Confirm a contractor’s insurance coverage with the insurance carrier.

To verify that a home contractor is registered with the Attorney General’s office, consumers may call the Home Improvement Registration Hotline at (888) 520-6680.

Consumers can report potential scams to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Helpline by calling (800) 441-2555 or by filing a consumer complaint online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.

Attorney General Kane also advised consumers to follow the Public Utility Commission’s tips for residents during power outages.


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