*Note: The general often deviates from prepared remarks.
With me today is David Maxwell, Director of Law Enforcement for my office and Tommy Prud’homme, who specializes in cases involving deceptive trade practices. I’d like to open by thanking the people of Hays County for having us here today. I’ve just had a short briefing detailing the ongoing situation here, which is far from over for many families here in Hays and across the state.
Like people across Texas, families here are in the earliest stages of putting their lives back together. The tragedy is still fresh and the truth is, the overall threat of more flooding has still not entirely passed. Throughout these storms, and these floods, we’ve witnessed the courage of our first responders and the generosity of neighbors, coming together to help their fellow Texans.
Unfortunately, in past disasters, we’ve seen patterns where an initial disaster is followed by a second wave of disaster: in the form of shady individuals perpetrating scams and fraud. These crimes are particularly heinous, because as anyone in Hays can tell you right now, money is tight. The last thing people who have lost everything need are bad actors taking advantage of their circumstances. To that end, I’d like to caution everyone in any area affected by flood to be extremely careful with people selling you services.
Contractors going door-to-door, particularly from out of the area, have been known to make lots of promises, take lots of money, and never actually make repairs. Therefore, do not let yourself be rushed or bullied into signing a contact, and it’s best to work with contractors who only seek payment after repairs are done. It’s also always best to get everything in writing. Be aware that under Texas law, you have three days to cancel any sale made door-to-door and they’re obligated to inform you of that fact. It’s always best to go with insured contractors who have solid references.
The Better Business Bureau is a prime resource at times like this. And, the golden rule in any business transaction, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. In cases like this, we’ve heard of people posing as aid workers, then stealing from the people they pretend to help. When trying to help online, make sure any organization or website you choose to donate to is legitimate, so the money actually reaches victims in need.
In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General is the voice of the victim, whether that’s a victim of a crime, or the victim of a storm. Or, unfortunately, sometimes both.
My office is monitoring the situation here in Hays and the dozens of other counties affected by the storm. I urge anyone who encounters scammers operating in disaster zones to contact law enforcement. My office’s complaint line is 1-800-252-8011. You can also file a complaint at my website: TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov.