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Utah consumer advocates warn wildfire victims to avoid scams

Published August 21, 2013 12:34 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A warning to victims of Utah's recent wildfires: Don't get burned a second time.

Disasters have a way of attracting scam artists and state consumer protection officials say the public should be on the lookout for bogus repair services or charity campaigns.

The alert comes in the wake of Summit County's Rockport 5 Fire, which destroyed eight homes, and seven other major wildfires in the past month.

In a statement, Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, said no wildfire-related scams have been reported to the state thus far, but the extent of the wildfire damage could leave some Utah property owners vulnerable.

"Even though you may be in a hurry to make home repairs, don't let others take advantage the second time around," Giani said. "It just takes five minutes to make sure your contractor is licensed or to check that your donation is going to a charity registered with the state."

To avoid getting duped by wildfire-related scams, consumers should:

•Make sure that any contractor offering fire repair services is licensed with the state. You can also check to see if the individual or company has a track record of complaints by calling (801) 530-6626 or visiting www.dopl.utah.gov">http://www.dopl.utah.gov.

•Get contracts in writing and don't fall for high-pressure sales pitches.

•Check out charities and fundraisers before donating and only donate to organizations with a track record. To find out if a charity has been registered in Utah, visit www.consumerprotection.utah.gov">http://www.consumerprotection.utah.gov.

•Don't pay with cash. Write out a check and ask for a receipt.

If you suspect a scam or want to file a complaint, call (801) 530-6601 or visit www.consumerprotection.utah.gov">http://www.consumerprotection.utah.gov.

So far this year, 768 fires have charred 23,615 acres in Utah.

jnpearce@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jnpearce