AG Warns Texans About Post-Wildfire Con Artists

January 5, 2006

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott warned Texans who lost homes or other property to recent major wildfires across the state to be alert for unscrupulous operators offering to rebuild or repair fire-damaged property.

Scores of wildfires that began last month have killed three people, burned more than 254,000 acres and destroyed more than 200 homes.

“Sadly, scam artists take advantage of tragedies such as these, seeking to cheat victims who are trying to rebuild their lives,” Abbott said in a release issued by the AG’s office. “I urge Texans who have suffered damage from these wildfires to be careful when deciding whom to hire to repair their damaged property. If they encounter any fraud or deception, they should report it to my office. I will not stand for dishonest businesses that prey on people who have already suffered because of these fires.”

The AG offered the following tips for Texans approached by someone offering to rebuild or repair property:

• Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract immediately.
• Ask the Better Business Bureau if it has any complaints about the company.
• Get references from previous customers and check them out.
• Get the salesperson’s license plate number.
• Deal with local firms, if possible.
• Get everything in writing and keep the documents in a safe place.
• Do not sign a contract with blank spaces. Dishonest salespersons may enter unacceptable terms later.
• Ask for proof of insurance.
• Never pay 100 percent up front. Arrange for an independent agent to inspect the completed work before making full payment.
• Ask whether the contractor will place a lien, security interest or mortgage on your property.
• Ask for guarantees in writing.

Abbott urged Texans to file complaints about unscrupulous contractors by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 252-8011 or by filing a complaint on the Attorney General’s Web site at

He asked consumers to provide specific information about the business, including address or specific location, contact information, and the price the business advertises and actually charges for a particular job.

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