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  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , utility assistamce, , winter weather   

    Heating assistance scam hits Midwest 

    By Greg Collier

    This past winter, Texas had a record-breaking winter storm that left most of the state unprepared for the damage that followed. However, Texas wasn’t the only state that was affected by the storm. Most of the Midwest was also caught up in the inclement winter weather that resulted in record cold snaps across the Great Plains. While most of the Midwest is more prepared for weather like this than Texas, it still resulted in higher than normal heating bills. Many Midwest residents are just now starting to receive these bills that many found to be astronomical. Leave it to the scammers to then try to take advantage of some already vulnerable residents.

    The State of Kansas has reported that many residents of the Sunflower State have received phone calls from scammers posing as the state government offering utility assistance. While the state does have programs that can help you with unusually high utility bills, the state does not call residents at random to offer the service. While there has not been a report of anyone falling for the scam, the state believes the calls are intended to steal your identity by asking for personal and financial information. People who are desperately trying to keep the gas or electricity on could be increasingly vulnerable to this scam.

    We’d like to remind our readers that just because a scam is happening in one state it could easily happen in your state as well. Government agencies normally don’t call residents out of the blue to offer financial assistance. Anybody who requires assistance would need to contact the state first. If you receive one of these phone calls, you’re asked to report it to the state along with the phone number that appeared on your caller ID and the name used by the phony state agent.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , winter weather   

    The scams after the storm 

    The scams after the storm

    By Greg Collier

    Even though temperatures are returning to normal in Texas, there is still a lot of clean-up that needs to be done in the Lone Star State. Power lines still need to be restored and many Texas residents experienced substantial home damage after frozen pipes burst in their homes. After any disaster, scavengers will descend upon the area looking to take advantage of those in need. The Texas winter storm is no different, and it’s not just Texas residents that have to look out for scammers.

    If you live in the affected areas of Texas, you might want to keep an eye out for shady or phony contractors who appear out of the blue offering to repair your home. If you receive unsolicited calls offering repair service or someone just shows up to your home, there’s a very good chance that they are a scammer. We’re obviously not saying that all contractors are scammers, however, there are many scammers who pose as contractors.

    If you were to accept one of these offers, you could be looking at unfinished work at best and loss of potential federal assistance funds at worst. The Texas Department of insurance recommends getting multiple bids from contractors before settling on one to repair your home. You might be tempted to go with the first offer since you want your home operating properly as soon as possible, but that could possibly lead to even more problems. In turn, that could potentially further delay your home from returning to normal.

    You should also avoid anyone who says they’ll waive your insurance deductible or asks for a large down payment or full payment up front. In many cases, these actions are illegal in Texas.

    For people living outside of Texas, you have to be wary of charity scams. If you receive a phone call, text, email, or social media message soliciting for donations, ignore them and delete them. Most scammers will use vague names of charities like ‘Storm Relief’. They’ll also try to pressure you into making a donation at that very moment. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t donate to a legitimate charity to help those in need in Texas. CNN has a list of legitimate charities assisting in Texas disaster relief. You can also go to Charity Navigator to make sure the charity you’re donating to will actually get help to where it’s needed most.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , winter weather   

    More cold weather scams to be aware of 

    By Greg Collier

    When we think of natural disasters, we normally think of things like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes. However, the current brutal winter conditions that a large part of the country are currently enduring is also a natural disaster. As such, the current climate crisis is bringing scammers out of the woodwork. We’ve already touched upon how scammers are using the power outages to steal your information or gain access to your home, but other scams are starting to emerge as well.

    In Texas, where residents have been the hardest hit by the cold, FEMA is warning residents about a scam propagating on social media. In this scam, fake social media accounts are posing as FEMA and are listing a phone number for residents to call so they can be provided with a free hotel room. As of the time of this writing, FEMA is not providing any hotel room assistance, however, they are providing other emergency services to the Lone Star State. FEMA hasn’t stated what the purpose of this scam is, but one could assume it’s designed to steal your identity, money, or both.

    While Texas is feeling the brunt of the current weather situation, other states are dealing with the record-breaking weather as well. States in The Great Plains and Midwest are also dealing with rolling blackouts, just not on the level of Texas. Like any other natural disaster, this has the potential for some retailers and lodgings to start price gouging. Most states have laws preventing vendors from excessively raising their prices during a time of crisis. If you encounter price gouging, it’s recommended that you document the incident and report it to the state’s Attorney General office. Price gouging can also happen where an emergency has not been declared, so be on the lookout for that if you’re leaving your current state for a neighboring state that may not be going through the same crisis.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ERCOT, , , , winter weather   

    Scammers take advantage of Texas power problem 

    Scammers take advantage of Texas power problem

    By Greg Collier

    Currently, most of the country is experiencing record-breaking cold weather. Probably the state that’s been the hardest hit by the below freezing temperatures is Texas. Millions of Texas residents have been without power for days now. The Texas power gird has been overworked since it’s easier to make a home 30 degrees cooler in the heat than it is to make a home 60 degrees warmer in the freezing cold. Many Texans are desperate to have their heat and power restored. Unfortunately, this leaves them vulnerable to scammers.

    The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is better know as ERCOT. ERCOT manages the power grid that supplies electricity to 90% of Texas. The Council has issued a warning about a scam that is currently preying on Texas residents.

    According to ERCOT, scammers have taken to social media posing as ERCOT telling residents that if they give their account numbers to the phony ERCOT social media accounts, residents will have their power restored. It’s unknown why scammers want the account numbers, however, with those account numbers, scammers can cause all sorts of havoc for the ERCOT customer.

    Meanwhile, reports from Houston are saying that scammers are impersonating utility employees to gain access to customer homes. Officials there say that no power utility employee will need to enter the home but may be by your outdoor power meter. They also suggest that real employees will drive a company marked vehicle and not an unmarked personal vehicle.

    With more winter storms supposedly headed to Texas, residents need to be on the lookout for these scams. Scammers love nothing more than a time of crisis and despair to try to take money, information of both from their victims.

     
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