USAA Warns Hurricane Ike Victims to Beware of Fraudulent Contractors

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History says scam artists are likely to be in the area. Houston and Galveston area residents who sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Ike should be wary of a fraud scheme that regularly takes place after natural disasters - scam artists who pose as professional contractors.

In addition to self protection, local residents can help one another by reporting incidents to law enforcement and other officials, neighbors and friends

Houston and Galveston area residents who sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Ike should be wary of a fraud scheme that regularly takes place after natural disasters - scam artists who pose as professional contractors.

"After a storm like Hurricane Ike, families are preoccupied by so many details of cleanup that they can unknowingly become vulnerable to scam artists," says Ken Rosen, USAA's senior vice president of Claims Service. "Consumers already have been through one disaster, but unfortunately, there are unsavory operators out there who are ready to take advantage of them after the disaster."

The scam often begins when a rip-off artist poses as a contractor and approaches a homeowner offering to help with repairs or debris removal. The scammer offers to move the property owner to the top of their list if the homeowner will pay money up front for supplies or labor needs. Unfortunately, once a work project is agreed upon and money is collected, the "contractor" disappears leaving the homeowner swindled.

USAA offers these consumer tips:

  •     Require contractors to produce a license or other identification that can be confirmed by a third party.
  •     Do not pay up front for any repair or cleanup work. Legitimate contractors will bill upon completion of the job.
  •     Take photos of your contractors and the license plates on their vehicles.
  •     Call your insurance company if you suspect you've been approached by a scam artist. Insurance companies work with contactors and can provide guidance.

"In addition to self protection, local residents can help one another by reporting incidents to law enforcement and other officials, neighbors and friends," Rosen said. "Tell friends and neighbors about this possibility and openly discuss recovery efforts and needs within your community."

USAA representatives are available for interviews on this topic.

About USAA
USAA, a diversified financial services group of companies, is the leading provider of financial planning, insurance, investments, and banking products to members of the U.S. military and their families. Named by BusinessWeek as No. 1 Customer Service Champ in 2007 and 2008, USAA provides highly competitive financial products to its 6.6 million members. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit usaa.com.

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Paul Berry
USAA
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