Homeowner derails scammers

Published 9:36 am Monday, September 5, 2011

JACKSON — Northampton County law enforcement officials are asking citizens to be cautious in regards to scammers in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

According to Northampton County Sheriff’s Chief Detective Capt. D.M. Harmon, a call was received Thursday afternoon from a female homeowner in the Conway area reporting that two men came to her door posing as insurance company employees.

Harmon said the call came in at approximately 2:10 p.m.

“The citizen had come home for lunch when two Hispanic males came to her door claiming they were representatives from her insurance company,” he said. “They wanted her to fill out a form stating that she would be responsible for whatever monies her insurance company didn’t pay towards damages to her property.”

The woman refused to sign anything and the men left in a white crew cab pick-up truck.

“She immediately contacted her insurance company and found out they never sent anyone,” Harmon said.

Harmon said the men appeared to be around the ages of 40 to 45.

“I’m urging citizens, especially the elderly, to be mindful of these scams and make sure to check with your insurance companies to find out if a representative is coming out to their home and to get the person’s name,” Harmon said. “Once they arrive, make sure you check their credentials to make sure they are legitimate before you sign any documents or provide any personal information to them.”

He urged scam victims or those who knew anyone who has been scammed to contact their local law enforcement agency.  The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office can be contacted at (252) 534-2611 or Northampton County Crimestoppers at (252) 534-1110.

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office offers the following tips in protecting against scammers:

Do not pay for work up front. Inspect the work and make sure you’re satisfied before you pay. A reasonable down payment may be required for some projects, but don’t pay anything without getting a written contract detailing all work to be performed, its costs and projected completion date. Avoid paying with cash; use a check or a credit card instead.

Beware of any contractor who tries to rush you or who come to your home to solicit work. If an offer is only good now or never, find someone else to perform the work. Get recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had work performed on their homes.

Get three written estimates, if possible, and compare bids. Check credentials and contact the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau to learn about any complaints against the contractor.

For car repairs, shop around and compare written estimates. On major jobs, get a second opinion. If the mechanic recommends replacing parts, ask for the old parts. You may receive credit on some parts if the mechanic wants to keep them.

Beware of charity scams that use disasters to make phony pleas for donations sound more plausible. If a caller refuses to answer your questions about the charity, offers to come pick up a donation in person or calls you and asks for a credit card, bank account information or Social Security number, it may be a scam.