Everyone should be aware that the days, weeks and months following a major disaster are dangerous times for consumers.
Be aware that this disaster will bring out fraudsters who intend to take advantage of the victims who have already been harmed by Harvey.
Do not give your personal identifying information (Social Security, Date of Birth, and Texas Driver’s License) to anyone unless you know who you are talking to and are certain that they need it.
If someone calls you saying they are from the government, your insurance company, your bank or a similar organization and asks for your personal identifying information, do not give it to them until you have verified who they are. This can be done by going to the Internet and calling them back using the number listed for that organization. Do NOT call them back on a number they provide.
If anyone personally shows up at your home claiming to be from FEMA, a government organization, your insurance company or a similar organization do not let them on your property or in your home until you have verified that person’s identity. Ask to see the person’s official identification and examine it carefully. Again if necessary use the Internet to find a phone number for the organization to verify the identity of the person.
Unscrupulous contractors are likely to flood into Southeast Texas looking to take advantage of those in need of help. Use contractors who are bonded and insured. Ask to see proof of their insurance and bond. Call the insurance and bonding companies to verify that they are still in good standing.
Realize that any "advance payment" for work not already completed by a contractor may be lost if the contractor disappears. Even if a legal remedy exists to recover your money, it may involve a lawyer, additional costs, and time. Often, there is no practical way to recover your money.
Remember that fraudsters are clever. They will have reasonable sounding explanations for why they do not have identification or why they cannot be located on the internet.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
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