Texas has been ground zero for some of the nation’s most devastating natural disasters. Whether you’ve been a victim or a neighbor helping others in need, Texans have always responded by coming together in times of crisis. Our office wants to ensure all Texans have access to the disaster relief resources they need, or want to be a part of, and are aware of fraudulent activity surrounding such disasters. Unfortunately, a natural disaster leaves more than uprooted lives in its wake. It also pulls in an army of price gougers, fly-by-night door-to-door contractors, and bogus charities.
Please refer to the information on this page for help with reporting price gouging and scams, FEMA assistance, and information on charities and relief efforts.
Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Toll-Free Hotline
Some businesses raise their prices excessively on essential goods and services like drinking water, ice, groceries, fuel, towing, and car and home repairs. Charging excessive prices for necessities in an officially recognized disaster area can constitute price gouging.
Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, price gouging is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General has authority to prosecute any business that engages in price gouging after a disaster has been declared by the governor. The attorney general has issued stern warnings about price gouging to businesses in times of disaster, but you should still be on your guard.
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. Speak to them respectfully, but be frank. If you are unable to resolve the matter, file a complaint with our office.
For more information on price gouging, please visit our Consumer Protection page:
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.
Protect yourself and your wallet from unscrupulous operators. If you are insured, call your insurance adjuster and have them make an estimate of the damage and probable repair cost. This will give you a benchmark estimate, prepared by a professional, when you negotiate with contractors.
If someone does come to your door and offers to do repairs, we suggest that you do the following:
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.
If you are the victim of a Home Repair Scam or Price Gouging, call the Office of the Attorney General Toll-Free at 1-800-621-0508.
Following a water-related disaster, it is important to be wary of vehicles for sale that might have suffered flood damage. It is estimated that between 500,000 and one million automobiles were submerged in floodwaters during Hurricane Harvey alone.
In Texas, a seller is required by law to tell prospective buyers about damage to a vehicle. If the damage is from flooding, the words “Flood Damage” must be included on the vehicle’s title. Failure to disclose that information may be a violation of the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Attorney General Paxton and his Consumer Protection Division offer Texans the following tips to protect against buying flood-damaged vehicles:
Look for tell-tale signs of flooding. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles offers a checklist at http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/buying-or-selling-a-vehicle/title-check-look-before-you-buy/water-damage.
Have the vehicle inspected by an independent, competent automotive technician who has no relation to the seller. Since flood damage is hard to spot, paying an expert mechanic for an inspection provides peace of mind.
Check the vehicle history with a private service that can research insurance claims. Visit the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System for its list of approved providers at https://www.vehiclehistory.gov/nmvtis_vehiclehistory.html.
Always review the vehicle’s paper title before you buy. Check to see if it has been “branded” as salvaged or damaged.
Apply for assistance online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA.
Be aware of misleading or false information circulating about assistance in the aftermath of a disaster. To fact check rumors surrounding a disaster, visit FEMA’s webiste at www.fema.gov.
Red Cross Hotline
In the wake of a natural disaster, you may want to assist by giving to a charity that provides assistance to victims. We commend your generosity, but urge you to make sure your donations go to legitimate organizations.
It is wise to give only to charities you are already familiar with. Most reputable organizations do not directly solicit donations from individual consumers by telephone, email or door-to-door visits. Do not use links embedded in unsolicited emails to access an organization's website.
Research charities before you donate money by using these resources:
If you suspect you’ve been targeted by a fraudulent charity or donation scam, file a complaint online with our Consumer Protection Division at: https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/apps/charitable-trusts-complaint-form/
For News and Press Releases from our office, please visit:
The Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office has filed lawsuits and sent warning letters to nearly 130 businesses accused of price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It will continue to investigate and prosecute businesses who unlawfully took advantage of vulnerable citizens during this disaster.
If you were a victim of price gouging, home repair or charity scams, or unlawfully sold a flood-damaged vehicle in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, please contact us at 1-800-621-0508 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint.