By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
Recent home-improvements scams targeting Mississippi residents prompted a warning of caution Monday by state Attorney General Jim Hood.
The scam involves contractors who offer free inspections of air ducts only to falsely claim evidence of mold and rodents and then charge steep fees for cleaning services.
Although the scam is occurring statewide, a majority of cases have happened around the Gulf Coast area, said agency spokeswoman Jan Schaefer.
“There are plenty of legitimate businesses in our state who will do right by consumers, but there are also plenty of con artists who move state to state scamming folks,” Hood said in a press release. “For your own protection, you have to approach everything and everyone with skepticism.”
Hood also said most consumers take extra precaution in the wake of an emergency or a natural disaster like the April 2011 tornadoes that swept through Northeast Mississippi. Such incidents tend to draw con artists to an area.
But he said criminals can strike at any time and cited the air-duct scams as evidence.
“Con artists will take advantage of any opportunity they come across,” Hood said.
The agency released several consumer-protection tips when dealing with any type of home-repair job:
* Ask for detailed, itemized estimates from at least three contractors before hiring one. Make sure the estimates relate to exactly the same work.
* Get a written guarantee from the contractor before the job begins.
* Verify the contractor’s address, request and check references, inspect prior work.
* Make sure the contractor is licensed and bonded.
* Beware of contractors going door to door seeking work.
Anyone who feels they may have been “duped” by an unscrupulous contractor should contact the Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division at (800) 281-4418.