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AFTER DISASTER: Tips to Avoid Fraud

Submitted by on March 1, 2017 – 6:30 amNo Comment

Beware of scams if you need to rebuild your home

The Texas Attorney General advises state residents to consider the following tips when in need of businesses or contractors to help in the clean-up and rebuilding process after a tornado, heavy rainfall and flooding or other disaster:

  • Consult the Better Business Bureau to ensure you are working with a trustworthy business.
  • Contact an insurance adjuster to get an estimate of the damage and repair cost.
  • Be wary of contractors who solicit services door-to-door, especially those that are unfamiliar or from out of town.
  • Know that under Texas law, the door-to-door seller must advise you orally and in writing that you have a right to cancel the sale within three days.
  • Don’t rush into signing a contract, and never pay up-front for promised work.
  • Secure the terms of any warranty work in writing.
  • Ask for references, or rely on recommendations from friends or relatives who have had experience with honest contractors and check them.
  • Although Texas’ price gouging law prohibits vendors from illegally raising prices to reap exorbitant profits during a disaster, it does allow retailers to pass along wholesale price increases to customers. Thus, in some cases, increased prices may not necessarily signal illegal price gouging.

Under state law, once the governor issues a declaration, vendors are prohibited from charging exorbitant prices for necessities such as drinking water, food, batteries, generators, towing, clothing, medical supplies, lodging, repair work and fuel during and after the crisis. Currently, the disaster declaration prompted by the widespread damage from the heavy rainfall, flooding and tornadoes is effective only in the named counties. Price gouging is illegal, and a disaster declaration triggers stiffer penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Texans who believe they have en­countered price gouging should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508, or they can file a complaint online at texasattorneygeneral.gov.


More Tips To Avoid Remodeling Scams

After natural disasters, door-to-door salespeople flock to some neighborhoods offering clean up and repair services. While many of these people are honest and reputable, some are not.

If someone does come to your door and offers to do repairs, we suggest that you do the following:

  • Get more than one estimate. Take your time.
  • Check the contractor out with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Avoid out-of-town businesses.
  • Get everything in writing and keep a copy of all documents.
  • Do not sign a contract with blanks.
  • Ask for proof of insurance.
  • Never get too far ahead on the payments. Arrange for an independent agent (insurance adjuster or real estate inspector) to inspect the completed work before you make full payment.
  • Find out in writing if the contractor or business will place a lien, security interest or mortgage on your property.
  • Don’t sign completion papers or make final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction.

In summary, be cautious and take your time. Be especially suspicious of door-to-door salespeople who make “low-ball” estimates, refuse to leave a contract overnight so you have time to review it, or try to sell their services to you by playing on your emotions.

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