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Winter Storm Pax Triggers Consumer Scams and Price Gouging


North Carolina hard hit by winter storm Pax

Many NC residents were forced to abandon cars during Pax

Image source: North Carolina National Guard via Flickr Creative Commons

We wrote last week about the recent ice storms and the declared state of emergency triggering North Carolina's price gouging law. But more complaints are coming forward about scams and price hikes in the aftermath of last week's winter storm Pax that consumers should be on the lookout for so they're not taken advantage of and robbed of their hard-earned cash. Here's what you must know.

Beware tree removal scams

All of the heavy snow and ice broke many branches or cracked and bent them into a state of near-fall that may have them hanging precariously over your home. If you've got downed tree limbs that you can't haul away on your own or that need to be professionally cut down to prevent damage to your home and property, you may be looking for a professional to help you. But, if you're not careful, you can be taken advantage of, lose out on money and not get the services you need.

North Carolina's Attorney General Roy Cooper has issued a warning about tree removal scams taking advantage of homeowners struck hard by Pax. The way the scam works is that the fraudsters go door to door to homes they can see were struck by fallen limbs, have dangling limbs or limbs on vehicles or other property. They collect a cash deposit and set an appointment time but then never show up. The end result: you're out a hunk of cash and are still stuck with your icy fallen limbs.

To protect yourself, don't deal with door to door hucksters. Get online and do some research. Find a reputable local tree service, check their reviews on Yelp and call for an appointment. Waiting for someone you can trust is better than being scammed by someone on your doorstep! If you are scammed by someone after this winter storm, contact local law enforcement and North Carolina's Department of Justice.

Beware price gouging for auto towing

In the worst part of Pax, North Carolinians were ditching their cars on the side of the road in droves. Still others drove off the roads when confronted with ice they couldn't handle. If this was your circumstance and you had to get a tow to get your vehicle back on the road, did you pay greater than customary rates for the towing service? You may have paid the stiff fee and not questioned it. If you don't use tow services routinely (and who does?), you may not have any idea what's reasonable.

The Attorney General's office says that $100-$150 is typical for a tow, but in the aftermath of Pax the AG says his office has been receiving complaints of charges of $400 or more. If you paid more than the customary rate for a tow after Pax, file a complaint with the NC DOJ office to trigger an investigation and hopefully secure a refund of the amount you were overcharged.

After you warm up and thaw out after winter storm Pax, if your finances still give you a chill, contact the law offices of John T Orcutt for a free consultation on getting out of debt for good.

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