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When the storm moves out, scammers move in. Here's how to protect yourself

There are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself against scammers who prey on storm victims.

HOUSTON — CenterPoint Energy is warning customers about a utility scam that frequently surfaces after storms. Company officials said no one will call you demanding payment for your power or natural gas. CenterPoint doesn’t even do direct billing and would never ask for payment with prepaid cards, Bitcoin or a payment app.

RELATED: The first thing you should do if your home is damaged by severe weather

Here are some reminders from CenterPoint:

  • Protecting personal and financial customer data is of utmost importance to CenterPoint Energy
  • CenterPoint Energy phone agents (whether inbound or outbound) will NEVER personally request banking or credit card information over the phone, but will instead transfer a customer to an Interactive Voice Response system to collect payment information for natural gas bills
  • If someone calls, texts, appears, or emails saying you must pay your bill immediately to avoid disconnection, tell them you would like to verify that they are a legitimate utility company representative by calling a verified number on the utility’s website or on your monthly bill. Verify the identity of the individual requesting information before sharing credit card numbers and any personal information
  • Contact 911 and report suspicious activity to the local police
  • Please call and report the incident to the local utility provider and the Better Business Bureau

Another scam to look out for after a storm is shady contractors. If your property was damaged by Hurricane Nicholas, Dan Parsons with the Better Business Bureau said you should be careful who you hire to fix it.

RELATED: CenterPoint expects most power outages to be fixed by the end of the day

“The politically incorrect statement we make is 'don’t be a victim twice,'” Parsons said. “If a contractor walked up to you today and said, 'I see your damage from the storm. I can have it fixed in two weeks,' you send them packing because it ain’t happening.”

Parson said between the slow supply chain for materials due to COVID and a worker shortage, a contractor can’t deliver on a fast job right now.

Here are some tips from the BBB about hiring someone to work in or on your home:

  • Research and gather information
  • Ask for references
  • Ask for multiple quotes
  • Get it in writing
  • Verify license and insurance
  • Arrange a payment schedule
  • Get a receipt
  • Keep your contract

www.reportfraud.ftc.gov is a good place to file a complaint. The Federal Trade Commission will share your report with thousands of law enforcement agencies. In 2020, the FTC received about 2.2 million fraud reports.