As fraudsters tend to be active after a crisis, KSAT Community partner Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union (RBFCU) urges the community to take caution following the extreme winter weather that hit Texas last week.
“With so many residents experiencing damage to their homes, the chances of home-improvement scams are on the rise,” says Brian Munsterteiger, RBFCU’s Vice President of Enterprise Fraud. “But no one should overlook the probability of financial scams that could prey upon your financial accounts. Fraudsters will try to capitalize on the uncertainty of utility issues and will play on the emotions of people wanting to help others after this disaster.
“If anyone wants to make sure of their situation with regard to utilities, or wants to offer a helping hand through a financial contribution, please reach out to those organizations directly.”
Listed below are a few tips from RBFCU on what to look for, and how to respond, that can help you through these situations.
Look out for calls, emails or texts that insist you act immediately to solve a utility problem or to contribute to a relief effort.
These urgent communications, which will appear to come from a legitimate, known company, organization or charitable group, will even specify how to transfer money to them, or offer prizes or gift cards in exchange for your monetary contribution. Remember, RBFCU and other financial institutions will not place calls and ask for your sign-in information, including passwords.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is warning everyone to not trust individuals who offers financial help and then ask for money or personal information.
FEMA reminds that federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money and do not charge for disaster assistance.
Beware of visits, calls or emails from people claiming to be from FEMA asking for your Social Security number, bank account or other sensitive information. Giving out this type of information can lead to identify theft.
Because many are affected by damage to their homes resulting from winter weather, several “fly-by-night” contractors could be soliciting business and offering repairs. Homeowners can become prey to a scam with a simple knock on the door or an ad that can appear on your front door.
To help avoid becoming the victim of a home-improvement or storm damage repair scam, you should: stay away from cash-only deals, ask for references and licensing, and go through your insurance agency to get the repair process started.
Tips on how to spot a home-improvement scam
Watch out for “red flags”: You could be headed for a bad experience if you accept a cash-only deal, if you fall for a contractor’s high-pressure sales tactics, or if you are expected to agree to a handshake deal with no contract. Don’t go forward if you spot these “red flags.”
Ask for, and check out, a list of references: Scammers don’t want to wait while references are being checked. Even if the contractor is not known for scams, you can question their level of work if they are reluctant to provide references. The more detail you can get, the better.
Know the law: If your state or municipality requires a contractor or home service professional to have specific licensing or insurance, confirm that your vendor carries the proper documents or related permits. Once you have those forms, you can double-check with a state insurance board or a municipal office to verify.
Do your part to stop the spread of rumors by doing three easy things:
- Find trusted sources of information.
- Share information from trusted sources.
- Discourage others from sharing information from unverified sources.
To learn more fraud prevention tips from RBFCU, click or tap here.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP, 1-877-ID-THEFT to report consumer fraud or identity theft.
KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union.