Unfortunately, during times of crisis, there are people who will exploit the vulnerable for their own benefit. For those that are seeking assistance in recovering after Hurricane Harvey and for those who want to donate their time/money to charities, please keep these tips in mind.

 

When Rebuilding Your Home:

  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure contractors are licensed in Texas and ask for their references.
  • Ask your insurer for recommendations if you don't have a reliable contractor you've used in the past.
  • Get more than one bid on work, so you know if you're being overcharged, and never sign a blank contract, according to the Texas Department of Insurance

 

When Purchasing a New Vehicle:

After Hurricane Katrina, the National Insurance Crime Bureau organization (NCIB) found that people were fixing up flood-damaged vehicles and reselling them as used vehicles in Louisiana. Up to a million cars were flooded by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, leaving many residents vulnerable to car fraud.

  • Do a vehicle inspection number check, which gives you information about prior damage and repairs to the car, before purchasing used vehicles. That way you won't end up with a car that was previously flooded by Harvey. NCIB Offers a free VIN look-up to check vehicles for flood damage and possible fraud risks (https://www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/vincheck)

  • Carfax also offer a free report to look up a VIN for any vehicle to check for flood damage. https://www.carfax.com/press/resources/flooded-cars
  • Select a reputable car dealer.
  • Inspect the vehicle for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpets, floor mats, headliner cloth and behind the dashboard.
  • Check for recently shampooed carpet.
  • Inspect the interior upholstery and door panels for fading.
  • Check for rust on screws in the console or areas where water normally doesn’t reach.
  • Check for mud or grit in the spare tire compartment, alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.
  • Check inside the seatbelt retractors by pulling the seatbelt all the way out and inspect for moisture, mildew or grime.
  • Check door speakers as they will often be damaged due to flooding.
  • Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing it.
  • Ask about the vehicle's history. Ask whether it was in any accidents or floods.
  • Inspect the title and ownership papers for any potential or questionable salvage fraud.
  • Look under the hood for signs of oxidation. Pull back rubber boots around electrical and mechanical connections for these indicators:
    • Ferrous materials will show signs of rust
    • Copper will show a green patina
    • Aluminum and alloys will have a white powder and pitting.
  • Trust your instincts: If you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away!
  • If you suspect insurance fraud or theft, speak up! Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411). Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.

 


 

When Donating to Charities or Seeking Services from Charities:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises those who wish to donate to stick to charities they know, and to be on the lookout for charities or relief Web sites that seem to have sprung up overnight in response to current events (such as houstonfloodrelief.net, registered on Aug. 28, 2017). Sometimes these sites are set up by well-meaning people with the best of intentions (however misguided), but it’s best not to take a chance.

The FTC also warns consumers not to assume that a charity message posted on social media is a legitimate, and urges folks to research the organization before donating by visiting charity evaluation sites such as Charity NavigatorCharity WatchGuideStar, or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. The agency also reminds people who wish to donate via text message to confirm the number with the source before you donate.

   
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