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July 23, 2014
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New York State Insurance Department says beware of hurricane scams


• Water Testing & Purifiers. Monitor local news media for instructions from health authorities regarding water safety and purification. Avoid offers for "free" home water testing, and be skeptical of claims that an in-home test shows your water is unsafe. If you have questions about the safety of your water, contact your local public health authority.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, you should consult a lawyer immediately. There are time deadlines to cancel sales and pursue legal claims. You can also contact the Insurance Department for insurance related scams, or the New York Division of Consumer Protection at 800-697-1220 or your district attorney or the Attorney General's Office.

Price Gouging

Some businesses raise their prices excessively on essential goods and services like drinking water, ice, groceries, fuel, towing, and car and home repairs. State law prohibits excessive increases in prices for essential goods and services during times of market disturbance, such as after a disaster.

If you feel that you are being unfairly charged for goods or services such as drinking water, food, towing, or any other necessity, raise the issue of price gouging with the provider.

If that does not solve the problem, you can report the merchant to local law enforcement or the Attorney General.

Phony Charities

After a disaster it is natural that those who were not harmed want to help others who were. Indeed, that help is essential when there serious damage and many people have suffered major losses.

But be sure that the money you give actually reaches those in need. It is best to give to charities that you already know. Most reputable charities will not call and ask for donations or come to your door. Also, beware of email requests, which may not really be from the organization named. It is safer to go to the website of the organization yourself and make your donation there.

Consumers should contact their insurance company, agent or broker to get answers to specific questions about their policies or claims. Consumers who need further help should feel free to contact the New York State Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bureau at 800-342-3736 which operates from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Disaster related calls only should go to the disaster hotline at 800-339-1759, which will be open starting Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. for as long as needed.