Storm victims should be aware of scammers

May 25, 2013

The massive May 15 tornado damage has already attracted huge numbers of roofing and construction companies.

But before you jump into an agreement to have any repair work done, do yourself a favor. Take a little time to check out the company and its history.

While many of the companies are perfectly legitimate, skilled professionals, some may be less than honest and not quite so handy.

Sheriff Roger Deeds said his deputies have been talking to some of the construction and roofing people coming in.

“Initially, we didn’t want salesmen pestering residents trying to pick up the pieces of their lives,” Deeds said.

Deputies can’t be everywhere, and there is no law that controls solicitors or requires permits.

“In the county, we don’t have any way to issue permits for repairs,” Deeds said.

So the sheriff had a few key points to avoid either being scammed, or wasting good money on shoddy work.

“My recommendation is to hire people who have been in the community a long time and have credentials and are listed with the Better Business Bureau (in Fort Worth) or the Granbury Chamber of Commerce,” Deeds said. “Ask for references and look at their background. It’s worth some investigation.”

Deeds also repeated the common but useful warning, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

As of Thursday, he said he had not received any reports of actual scams attempted in connection with tornado recovery.

“If anybody feels like they have been scammed, please come forward and we’ll get our deputies to look into it,” Deeds said.

Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott came to see the Rancho Brazos situation two days after the tornado. Abbott came along and made it clear that scammers trying to take advantage of the local situation will not be tolerated.

“He is very serious about working with us, working with everybody,” Deeds said of Abbott. “He’s definitely on board.”

THE SCAMMERS

The sheriff said some of the scammers falsely try to convince you there’s no need to contact your agent – at least not right away.

“You do need to contact your insurance company,” Deeds said. “A legitimate roofer will assist you.”

Perhaps the worst scenario is something many residents might never consider.

“If you get anything done without previous approval of the insurance company, it will not be covered,” Deeds said.

Several days ago, the sheriff learned that a company from “back east” had a presence here, offering 150 modular-type homes to be given at no charge to people displaced by the tornado.

Deeds never found out all of the details, but apparently there was a catch to the deal.

“That was not true,” he said of the offer being totally free. “Whenever somebody offers you something free, you’ve got to pay for something else.”

On the other hand, Deeds said he also learned of a legitimate group that arrived out of Arkansas offering pre-fabricated structures for sale. However, theirs were meant for small businesses, Deeds said, and were not suitable as residences – so the representatives headed back home.

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 254

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