The Office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan can take legal action against scammers and con artists who seek to unfairly profit in the aftermath of flooding and other natural disasters. If you have suffered flood damage to either your home or your car we urge you to be mindful of the following:
Watch out for door to door solicitors, particularly those who offer discounts for cash, claim to be making repairs with leftover supplies from other jobs, or state that you must act now to get a reduced price.
Protect yourself by asking to see identification for people who want to enter your home and don’t hesitate to check with the governmental authority or company they claim to represent. Avoid giving out personal information such as social security numbers or bank account numbers. Some scam artists masquerade as safety inspectors or utility workers who say immediate work is required and that you need to pay them for it.
Get a written contract. Guaranties, costs, and expected completion dates should be part of a written contract that you review before signing. Avoid paying in cash. Using a credit card provides you with the ability to dispute a charge if the repair is not completed. You should not pay for an entire home repair up-front. To ensure that all work is completed in accordance with your expectations, arrange to pay for part of the work (generally one-third to one-half) up-front and pay for the rest of the work once it is completed to your satisfaction. Asking for proof of licenses and insurance may help you distinguish between legitimate contractors and unlicensed scam artists offering to “save you money”.
Charging an exorbitant price for fuel, food, medicine, or another necessity during a declared disaster such as the recent flooding is price gouging and unlawful. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has the authority to file civil actions to stop these kinds of activities. If you feel that you are being unfairly charged for goods or services such as drinking water, food, batteries, generators gasoline or towing, raise the issue of price gouging with the provider. Speak to them respectfully but be frank. If you are unable to resolve the matter, please contact the office of the Harris County Attorney at 713-755-5101.