Monday, September 15, 2008

Protect Yourself Against Hurricane Scams

The extent of Hurricane Ike's impact on the state of Texas is only beginning to be revealed. As everyone knows, on Saturday came roaring through downtown Houston, which is where one of our law offices is located. All of our Houston attorneys and staff are safe, along with our clients' case files. But, due to the blockade in downtown Houston, I have not yet been able to assess the physical damage. I know that we suffered some flooding, but again, I do not know the extent of the damage. Right now, along with the downtown area, we know that millions in the Houston area are without power, thousands have been rescued from Galveston with a massive search effort still ongoing and most of the state is ... to put it simply ... really wet. What remains to be seen is the assessment of the monetary damage to homes, boats, businesses and other property and how long it takes to clean up the broken windows and fallen trees.

As the recovery gets underway, it is important for all affected residents to be aware of possible scams. It's an unfortunate reality that some crooks prey on the hurting victims of such catastrophes, or steal money from those who simply want to help. A word to all of my blog readers and non-blog readers alike: be very careful!

Houston's KHOU news station has an excellent article on its website detailing the threats by swindlers after a hurricane. It is advised that anyone requiring assistance after Hurricane Ike quickly get educated on how to be a discerning consumer, and the article relies on the Better Business Bureau for some important recomendations. The BBB warns that some instances of threats to your pocketbook include:

1. Used car dealerships that try to sell rain-damaged vehicles -- look under the dash and in the glove compartment for clues

2. Door-to-door salesmen who convince you of a pest infestation during a free inspection.

3. Carpet cleaners who magically clean your entire home without removing a single inch of fabric from your floors.

As with any business agreement, make sure that you require a contract and that you read the fine print from top to bottom. If the vendor is not able to offer you any written guarantee of services provided, you need to look for other options immediately.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who specialize in the area of business contracts. We can make sure that all parties are entering into a working relationship with a clear understanding of the objectives and guarantees. If you are in need of some legal assistance due to the impact of Hurricane Ike, and you want to avoid being scammed, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio offices today.

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