As communities are still rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey, some individuals are choosing to take advantage of those who are desperate for help. Unfortunately, post-disaster scams are common. Criminals take advantage of widespread desperation to cheat hurricane victims out of their money. Schemes that thieves use include posing as charities, taking money for construction work that is never done, and insurance scams.
Hurricane Harvey Charity Scams
As we have seen since the earliest days of Hurricane Harvey, natural disasters inspire people to work together. Individuals often show solidarity with victims by donating money to charities that promise to help others. While many charities are honest and follow through on their promises, a few never funnel money towards the people they claim to support.
The first step to making sure a charity is real is to do research. Using a site such as Give.org can verify if the charity approaching you is real or not. Pay attention to the information the individual gives for their charity. A charitable organization always has a clearly stated mission and will be able to provide details upon request. A legitimate charity should never make donors feel like they must act immediately. Finally, be sure that the charity you are speaking to is the organization that you believe it is. Many scammers will make false charities that are named similarly to real organizations.
Hurricane Harvey Construction Scams
In October of 2018, a man was sentenced to five years in prison after he was caught scamming Houston families with fraudulent construction work. The man obtained about $30,000 by promising to finish roofing repairs for desperate families after Harvey. Unfortunately, situations like this are not unique—scammers who pose as contractors are sometimes referred to as “storm chasers” because they target damaged homes in the wake of a disaster.
One of the easiest ways to avoid construction scams is avoid hiring any person going door-to-door in damaged neighborhoods. If you are speaking with a person who claims to be a contractor, vet their history and look up their work online. For additional security, get a copy of the contractor’s risk insurance certificate and verify it with the insurer. Finally, avoid contractors who claim to be coming in from out of town to help. Hiring local workers will help ensure that you are obtaining help from a proper business.
Hurricane Harvey Insurance Scams
While some insurance companies may feel like scam artists, they are often exploiting their legal abilities to deny claims. While frustrating, insurance tactics are not considered a scam. However, some individuals pose as insurance claims adjusters to exploit your trust in insurance providers.
If you are filing a claim, make sure that the adjuster you are speaking to is an actual employee or contracted worker for your insurer. In the days immediately following Harvey, companies were strained and relied on outside help from contractors to handle claims. Today, insurers have likely returned to using in-house adjusters. If a person shows up to your house claiming to be an adjuster, ask for a company identification card. If they are unable to produce one, do not continue to speak with them. Even if they do have identification, call your insurer to verify that the person is who they claim to be.
Follow the precautions listed above, and you'll keep yourself from becoming the victim of unscrupulous scammers and frauds! If you need help with your claim, call (888) 400-2101 to speak with our hurricane insurance claims lawyers.