The Norman Transcript

June 26, 2013

As rebuilding in Cleveland County continues, Sparks urges vigilance against fraud

Transcript Staff
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — With debris removal well underway, many citizens impacted by last month’s tornadoes are turning their attention to repairing or rebuilding their homes and businesses.  Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, reminds Cleveland County residents to be cautious of scams. 

“It’s unfortunate that there are some people who use natural disasters like this to take advantage of others,” Sparks said.  “I want to remind everyone affected by the tornadoes to be on the lookout for scams.  It’s important to take precautions in order to ensure your own protection.”

Home repair fraud is one of the primary rip-offs that Sparks warns against.

“One of the most important steps you can take as a homeowner is to ask for a lien waiver from your contractor before making any final payments,” Sparks said.  “This is a fast, easy way to protect yourself against unexpected financial obligations.” 

Another problem facing tornado victims is fly-by-night roofers.  All roofers are required to register with the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board to ensure they meet insurance and licensing requirements.  Before conducting business, it is wise to make sure the roofing company has a valid CIB number.

During the rebuilding and repairing process, victims are usually targets of advance fee loan scams.  Red flags include upfront fees and a disregard for credit history. The legitimacy of a lender can be verified by contacting the Attorney General’s Public Protection Unit.  

Identity theft is another concern for victims.  Missing documents can be used to access bank accounts and other secure facets.  Any lost materials containing personal information should be reported as soon as possible.

“I can’t overemphasize the importance of being proactive situations such as these,” Sparks said. “As long as you exercise sound judgment and take preventative action, these scams are usually avoidable.”

To confirm that a contractor or roofer is registered to operate in Oklahoma, call the CIB at 405-521-6550 or visit the website at http://cibverify.ok.gov. Lenders and contractors can also be verified by calling your local Better Business Bureau at 405-239-6081.  If you have any fraud concerns, call the Attorney General’s Public Protection Unit 405-521-2029.