KILLEEN, Texas – The Killeen Police Department is raising awareness of contractor fraud.
The department posted on social media Monday afternoon that disasters often bring communities together – but con artists, identity thieves and other criminals may target survivors.
The most common types of post-disaster fraud include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, pleas for disaster donations, fake offers of municipal or federal aid, and charging for free services.
Here are a few tips:
• Don’t wire money or pay with reloadable debit cards or gift cards. There is no legitimate reason to request those forms of payment.
• Don’t offer personal financial information over the phone. Know who you are dealing with and always ask for identification.
• Take your time to decide. In Texas, contractors are required to provide a Notice of Cancelation — which gives you the right to change your mind within three business days — if the transaction occurs in your home. Even if the transaction does not occur in your home, you can still request three days; there is no legitimate reason to refuse this request.
• Get the agreement in writing. Read the contract carefully, and if you don’t understand every word, take it to an expert. Never sign a contract with blank spaces to be filled in.
• Make sure the contract details all work to be performed, the costs, a projected completion date and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes.
• Do your research. Scam artists will usually come to you to offer their services — either at your door, on the phone or through email — so be especially wary of solicitors.
• Get estimates from multiple contractors and your insurance company. Reject any offer that seems too good to be true.
• Ask for references from past customers.
• Use the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org, and internet search engines. Fraudulent firms change names frequently, so search the web for their address and phone number, and include terms like “review,” “scam” and “complaint.”
• FEMA does not certify contractors.
Potential fraud should be reported to your local law enforcement agency. You can also contact the Texas Office of the Attorney General by calling 800-621-0508 or call the free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
Source: Killeen Police Department