MARION COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – Even in the wake of a disaster, there are still scammers seeking out their opportune moment.
There are some obvious red flags when it comes to scams: they take initiative to contact you, they offer bait (usually in the form of money), they ask for personal information, you have to pay them first or you they ask you to wire money or send gift cards.
To help their community avoid scams, the Marion County Emergency Management office shared some general tips. Those tips include:
- Use local companies
- Check references, phone numbers and addresses.
- Get more than one bid
- Get bids in writing. Reject offers to waive your deductible, as it is contractor fraud to do so.
- Don’t pay up front
- If a disaster is declared, contractors from outside your area can’t ask for payment before they start work.
The Texas Department of Insurance also gave some tips on avoiding contracting scams:
- THE SCAM: A contractor asks you to sign something before giving an estimate on the cost of repairs
- WHAT TO DO: Read it carefully. Make sure it’s not a contract, or you could get stuck paying a bill without ever seeing an estimate.
- THE SCAM: A contractor asks you to sign a contract with blank sections.
- WHAT TO DO: Don’t sign. The contractor could fill in the blank sections later with higher costs or different work.
- THE SCAM: Contractor offers to waive your deductible or “work it into the bid.”
- WHAT TO DO: Hire a different contractor. It’s illegal for a contractor to offer to waive a deductible or promise a rebate for it. The deductible is your responsibility, and your insurance company may ask for proof you paid it.
- THE SCAM: Contractor asks for a large down payment or a full payment up front.
- WHAT TO DO: Never pay the entire bill up front and be wary if a contractor asks for a large down payment. When a disaster is declared, it’s against the law for contractors from outside your area to ask for payment before they start work.
For resources on things like finding a legitimate contractor or receiving aid after a disaster, check out TDI’s webpage for more information.
Scammers might pose as charities or create fake charities to get money from those wishing to help victims of a disaster.
- Donate to trusted, well-known charities
- You can verify a charity’s legitimacy through various sources, as outlined by the FCC.
- Verify all phone numbers for charities
- Check the charity’s local website to see if the phone number is legitimate.
- Do not open suspicious emails
- Scammers can use links in emails or text messages for phishing attacks or to spread malware.
- Verify information in social media posts
- Double-check any donation solicitations before you give, as crowd-funding websites are not always vetted by outside sources.
To report fraudulent activities after a disaster, you can notify FEMA at 1-866-720-5721 or email@example.com.
Officials with government disaster assistance agencies do not call or text asking for financial account information and there is not a fee to apply for or get disaster assistance from FEMA or the Small Business Administration.
- Just because the number is local does not mean the call is legitimate
- Phone scams often use spoofing techniques to deliberately falsify their name and number that appears on your caller ID.
- Calls claiming to be government officials might be fake
- If someone calls claiming to be a government official, hang up and call the number given on the official agency’s website. Don’t reveal personal information unless you’ve confirmed you’re dealing with a legitimate official.