As soon as they can, unscrupulous contractors and people posing as contractors will arrive to prey on homeowners whose property was damaged or destroyed by Harvey.
Fraud can range from shoddy repairs to price gouging. In the worst cases, people offering services to storm victims will simply take their money and run.
The Texas Department of Insurance and the National Insurance Crime Bureau offer these tips when hiring a contractor for home repairs:
- Call your insurance company first. Your insurance company can give you advice on what repairs should cost. Never let a contractor interpret your insurance policy language or discourage you from contacting your insurance company
- Use local companies. Make sure to check their references and phone numbers.
- Get written estimates. These should be on the company’s letterhead with clear contact information.
- Get more than one bid. This will help you decide which offers are legitimate and which may be too high or too good to be true.
- Do not pay for repairs up front. Good contractors will typically require a partial payment up front to get started, but your final payment should be made after the job is finished.
- If you feel pressured or threatened, call the police.
Another potential scam arising from the storms are flooded vehicle resales.
Buying a flood-damaged vehicle is not illegal, but misrepresenting a flood-damaged vehicle as one that is not could be a crime exposing the seller to potential criminal charges. More importantly, unknowingly buying a flood-damaged vehicle may put you and your family in physical and financial danger. A vehicle’s electronic systems are often destroyed from prolonged exposure to water, rendering many of its safety features inoperable.
In these situations, it’s tough to recover your money. These scam artists rarely use legitimate contact information. In many cases, buyers are left with a useless vehicle and a loan that they still must repay.
To report suspected insurance fraud, ask your insureds to call Texas Department of Insurance’s Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439.