When all hail breaks loose, the hustlers get busy

Here’s a group of people not to hail if they come to your front door: scammers who are trying to make a buck off of storm damage that has hit New Mexico over the past month.

They’re called storm chasers, and they have been fanning out across the state seeking to get people to pay for bogus hail damage repair, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

They show up on street corners or at people’s doors, offering to fix hail damage done to home roofs or cars.

“Using a scammer rather than a real repair person or shop can cause more damage than the hail did,” AG Hector Balderas warned in a news release.

One thing to definitely not do: Don’t let a door-to-door sales person making a cold call climb onto your roof to inspect damage. The bogus repairers have been known to file claims for injuries from falls that didn’t actually occur, the AG says.

Also, don’t sign anything: “… all too often the document signed allows the scammer to bill the consumer’s insurance and/or allows the scammer to charge high dollars for repairs even if the work is shoddy or only partially done,” the news release says.

The safest thing to do is to check with a homeowner insurance agent to get recommendations for reputable repair people. However, if you do consider hiring an unknown person, check with the state’s Construction Industries Division to make sure the person or business is licensed and has no pending complaints. You can do this online at public.psiexams.com/search.jsp.

While state law doesn’t cover minimum requirements for dent repair on automobiles, you should still ask to see a business license before agreeing to sign a contract, the AG says.

Mobile car repair units, which often advertise by posting signs on street corners, may offer low-cost services, but many move around frequently and could be gone before they complete a job.

They also often don’t offer legitimate warranties.

“When selecting businesses to do repair work, consumers should look to local, legitimate businesses who have a good reputation,” the AG’s Office says. “Know that many of these legitimate businesses may have some backlog, and it may take a little while to get an appointment to get your car fixed. But the patience will pay off with an enforceable warranty and quality service.”

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A new nationwide tech support scam has reared its ugly head in New Mexico, the Better Business Bureau is warning.

One person, who had lost $500 to a fake computer repair scam last year, was victimized again by the latest scheme.

This one involves someone who called to say the Better Business Bureau was requiring a particular tech company to issue refunds to customers because it was going out of business.

The caller said the person was owed a refund of $400 from the company. The scammer talked the woman into providing her bank account information for easy deposit. The woman did so. The scammers charged $1,100 to her account.

It gets worse.

The scammer called back to say the only way to process the refund was for the victim to purchase two prepaid cards so “the costs” could be covered. The woman did so, doling out more than $1,500 to comply with the scammer’s second request.

The Better Business Bureau says it wants people to know that it would never ask a company that is going out of business to issue a refund to its customers for any services that were completed.

The BBB adds, “If a company is asking for any monetary exchange in the form of prepaid gift cards then it is likely a scam.”

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.