Texas AG Warns South Texans to be Wary of Scam Artists as Hurricane Emily Nears

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has alerted residents and business owners in South Texas to be on the lookout for unscrupulous repair contractors and retailers who may use the effects of Hurricane Emily to exploit those desperate for help.

Home repair scams commonly proliferate in areas where there is widespread property damage, and dishonest merchants might use the occasion to mark up prices exorbitantly for food, gasoline, lodging, purified water and medicines, the Attorney General warned.

Price-gouging for necessities in an area that has been declared a disaster is illegal, and, while no disaster has yet been declared, the Attorney General’s Office is ready to use heightened penalties in the law as an aggressive enforcement tool to handle such incidents.

“My office will strenuously enforce this law in the wake of a disaster and make violators pay dearly for making a profit from the misfortune of consumers,” said Abbott. “I urge any consumer who experiences price-gouging during a declared disaster to contact my Consumer Protection Division immediately.”

The Attorney General’s toll-free number for complaints of this kind is 800/252-8011.

Hurricane Emily, packing 135-mph winds, coursed across the Yucatan Peninsula early Monday, following a path that may take it toward South Texas.

The Attorney General offers these recommendations to avoid ripoffs:

• Deal only with licensed, bonded contractors;
• Be wary of “specials” and extra-cheap work;
• Contact your insurance adjuster to get an estimate of any damage and cost of repair;
• Do not be rushed into signing contracts and never pay up-front for promised work;
• Avoid door-to-door solicitors for damage repair work;
• Get the terms of warranty work in writing;
• Contact friends or relatives for references.