As residents recover from storm, DA says watch out for scammers

With Hidalgo County pumping flood water and residents picking up after damage left in the wake of Hurricane Hanna on Saturday and Sunday, District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. is reminding the public to look out for scammers.

In a news release Wednesday, the county said that after an emergency residents may see door-to-door contractors in their neighborhoods.

“While some may be reputable, others may not be and it is important to know where to report them,” the county said in the release.

Residents should call their local law enforcement office or the DA’s office at (956) 292-7600 to file a complaint. Residents can also visit the Texas Attorney General’s Office website to file a complaint.

“When you are ready to begin the process of re-building your home, there are several steps you should follow. If you have home insurance, call your insurance provider to file a claim for damage,” the release stated. “They will send an adjuster to your home to survey the damage and provide you with an estimate for repairs. This will provide you with a benchmark estimate, prepared by a professional, which will help as you negotiate with contractors.”

The county has several tips for negotiating with a contractor, including getting more than one estimate and avoiding being pushed into a contract right away.

Officials also suggest choosing local contractors, encouraging residents to research contractors online and consider references from past customers.

“Don’t pay up front. Get everything in writing and don’t sign a contract with blanks on it,” the news release stated.

The county also recommends keeping copies of all documents, including paperwork reflecting total cost, work promised, the work schedule, payment terms and other expectations, written in specific detail.

“A notice of cancellation — giving you the right to change your mind within three business days — must be included if the transaction occurs at your home,” the news release stated.

Officials say residents should also ask for proof of insurance, including disability and workers’ compensation insurance, because if the contractor is not insured, residents could be liable for accidents, according to the county.

The county also urges residents to watch out for identity theft by avoiding sharing personal information like credit card and bank information with anyone who knocks on their door.

“Don’t sign completion papers or make final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction,” the news release state. “A reputable contractor will not threaten you or pressure you to sign if the job is not finished properly.”

More information can be found on the Texas Attorney General’s website.