Watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud.
Local officials urge Austin-area residents affected by the recent floods to watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud.
As government agencies and charity groups work to provide disaster assistance, scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors. Some of the most common post-disaster fraud practices include fraudulent housing inspectors, building contractors, pleas for donations and fake offers of disaster aid.
Before entering into a verbal agreement or committing to a signed contract with these individuals, take the time to do the following:
· Don’t allow yourself to be pressured to make an immediate decision
· Research the company/individuals’ work quality online or visit their place of business
· Verify the individual(s) is a current employee of the company he or she states they represent
· Ensure they have the proper permits from the City of Austin prior to beginning the repairs (Home Restorations)
· If total payment is required prior to work commencement, look for another contractor
Disaster survivors should also keep in mind that relief workers always carry photo identification badges and do not ask for or accept money. There is no fee required to apply for or to get disaster assistance. Additionally, local disaster assistance agencies will not call to ask for private financial account information. Unless a survivor calls a charity or agency, personal information should not be given over the phone.
Complaints may be made to local law enforcement agencies. Residents can call the Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721, fax at 225-334-4707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Calls can be made anonymously and confidentially.
Residents can also report scams (including remolding/repair scams and price gouging) to the Texas Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 621-0508. The Austin Regional Office is at 300 West 15th Street, 9th Floor, PO Box 12548, Austin, Texas 78711-2548. The local telephone numbers are 512-463-2185 (office) or 512-473-8301 (fax).