The People Who Profit From Disasters

The damage in North Texas’ tornadoes will cost over a billion dollars, but who profits from the destruction?

By Brenda SalinasMay 12, 2015 8:30 am,

Recovery is underway in Van and Denton, Texas, after a series of tornados swept through on Mother’s Day. The Associated Press reports two people were killed in Van by the EF3 tornado that blew through the small town just southeast of Dallas.

Mark Hanna is a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas. He says the amount of damage to homes and businesses made by the 130-140 mile an hour winds will make the rebuilding costly.

“It’s really hard to put an exact dollar figure on it right now, but it’d be easy to say that the insured losses would be well over $1 billion,” Hanna says.

Once the storm passes residents naturally will want to make insurance claims. But some try to make a quick buck from the disaster by scamming insurers. State Senator Larry Taylor recently sponsored a bill he says will make it harder to file a false insurance claim.

“People block walking going door-to-door, phone solicitations, these aren’t people that have problems with their insurance agents and go look for a lawyer, these are people that lawyers go look for people to make a lot of money and now that’s the difference,” Taylor says. “It’s a money grab.”

When the repair process begins, contractors, carpenters and electricians move in. Sarah Burns is with the Texas Roofing Contractors Association.

“They’re called storm chasers [in the roofing business], and typically in an area that’s been heavily impacted there will be a lot of people that at least pose as doing business as roofing contractors that hit the area door knocking, handing out signs, sometimes putting signs in people’s yards, crawling on the roofs and inspecting them as well,” Burns says.

Most are on the up and up, but roofing and repair scams are all too common– the Texas Attorney General office regularly issues scam warnings and prosecutes scammers after almost every major storm or wildfire.

“Go to a reputable contractor, a building contractor, preferably someone who lives right there in your community,” Hanna says. “You want to refrain from dealing with anyone who is coming out from out of the city to take advantage of a bad situation.”

Rain and thunderstorms are expected in northern Texas for the next 10 days.