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AG Hawley warns against scammers following mid-Missouri severe storm

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Much of mid-Missouri is cleaning up after a severe storm swept through the area Monday night. In Cooper County, many trees were toppled, fences downed and some power lines were affected. 

According to Cooper County Emergency Management, officials decided to turn Cooper County's tornado sirens on at about 9 p.m. to warn residents to seek shelter from the storm and possible tornado. Cooper County EMA has gotten reports of damage to homes, outhouses and power poles. Cooper County EMA says it found damage along Highway 135, south of Pilot Grove, up to Highway 5 and Mile Corner Road.

Cooper County officials have notified the National Weather Service about the damage. The NWS is planning to send a team to survey and attempt to determine if a tornado passed through the area.

Following the tornado earlier this month in Perryville, Attorney General Josh Hawley warned against scammers who target areas recently affected by storms. 

"Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals take advantage of natural disasters to cheat people who are trying to get their lives back to normal,” Hawley said. So far, Hawley said his office has not has any reports of scammers from Perryville. 

Hawley's office put together a resource center for Perryville residents, giving them access to and assistance with finding contractors and companies with a good business history. The AG said that one of the biggest scams following disasters is fly-by-night “storm chasers” who go door-to-door offering cleanup work. They will often demand money upfront and take off without doing the work. 

"Oftentimes they'll demand a cash payment upfront," Hawley said. "They'll tell you they're giving you a big discount, but they want to be paid now. Also, they might say, 'We want you to sign a contract to allow us to work with your insurance company.' Never let somebody else talk to your insurance company on your behalf, always do that yourself."

Hawley also said that some scammers will pose as charities collecting money. He recommended to never give your credit, debit or bank account number over the phone. His office recommends insisting on a tax-deductible receipt with the amount you contributed. They also suggest to avoid cash donations and to make checks payable to the organization, not to a person. The Attorney General's office also keeps a list of charities registered in the state. 

Price gouging is also something the AG's office needs residents to let them know about. Hawley said it goes beyond supply and demand price increases. 

"We see it's not really the supply has gone down, it's that the person, the bad actor is trying to profit," Hawley said. "So it typically happens with food, water, gasoline, kerosene, hotel rooms."

The Attorney General's office has a hotline residents can call if they have questions about a possible scam. That number is 1-800-392-8222. That number is answered Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any voicemail left outside of those times will be called back the following business day. 

Residents can also file a complaint online on the Attorney General's consumer complaint website, https://www.ago.mo.gov/app/consumercomplaint


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