Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Tuesday, June 12, 2001

CORNYN ISSUES CONSUMER ALERT TO FLOODING VICTIMS

Southeast Texans Should Beware of Scam Artists and Price Gouging

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today issued a consumer warning to residents in Southeast Texas as they begin to recover from the worst flooding in recent history.

With many homes, businesses and vehicles damaged, victims may be looking for a quick way to get repairs done; however, acting hastily might also lead to more problems. Many of the frauds, scams, and other consumer problems appear after the immediate hazards from weather and flooding are over.

"My sympathies go out to those who have lost loved ones or have been displaced by last week's horrible storms," Attorney General Cornyn said. "Unfortunately, tragedies like these often bring out dishonest operators ... people who want to take advantage of another person's hardship. That's why it's important for flooding victims to be patient, and take precautions so that no one profits illegally from their loss. We don't want disaster survivors to be victimized twice."

The Attorney General offers these tips to avoid rip-offs:

  • Be wary of contractors who go door-to-door selling their services, especially those not known in your community.
  • Deal only with licensed and insured contractors or builders.
  • Don't rush into signing a contract: get written estimates from at least 3 other firms.
  • Get a warranty in writing.
  • Beware of contractors who demand payment for the entire job up front; never give a deposit until you have done your homework. If you do make a down payment, it should not be for more than one-third of the total price, and, don't pay cash.
  • Have a knowledgeable relative, friend or your attorney review a contract before you sign.

Price gouging is also a concern as Southeast Texans emerge from the flooding. State and federal laws are automatically activated during disaster declarations to protect consumers against anyone who tries to sell fuel, food, medicine, or other necessities at exorbitant prices. The Attorney General's Office is sending a team of anti-fraud investigators to the flooded areas to coordinate with federal, state, and local authorities and monitor consumer protection efforts.

"We will be on the lookout for those who act in a dishonest or unscrupulous manner," Cornyn said. "My office will vigorously prosecute individuals and companies that engage in price gouging or other scams against the very people who have already suffered enough."

Victims and consumers can report price gouging and contractor fraud to the Attorney General's Office at 1-800-337-3928, or 1-800-621-0508; consumer complaints can also be filed via the Internet at www.oag.state.tx.us

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