Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned Texans of the risk of fraud and common scams in the wake of Hurricane Laura, which is expected to impact communities across the state.
“Unfortunately, scams involving price gouging, repairs and charities are not uncommon following a disaster such as Hurricane Laura,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I strongly encourage hurricane victims in Texas to take the extra time to evaluate sellers and contractors to avoid scams. My office will continue working to protect Texans from deceptive acts and will carefully monitor the situation as Texans rebuild and recover.”
Consider the following tips when in need of businesses or contractors to help in the clean-up and rebuilding process:
- Only do business with licensed or bonded contractors or builders. 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.
- 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.
- Don’t rush into signing a contract and never pay by wire transfer, gift card, or cash. Don’t make the final payment until the work is done and you are satisfied.
- Guard your personal information; some scammers claim to be a public official and demand credit card, bank account, or social security numbers.
- Know that FEMA doesn’t charge fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, it is probably a scam.
- Although Texas’s 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.
Texans in affected counties 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 file a complaint online.