Writer: Teresa Madaleno
Hurricane Harvey took at least 70 lives that we know of at this point. That’s too many. One life is too much. However, as authorities work through what is expected to be a very long recovery process, they say they are “surprised” that that death toll was not higher.
The fact that weather forecasters were following and reporting storm activity as it made its way toward land and people heeded the warnings, made a huge difference in lives saved. If you have been watching or listening to news over the last few days, you have likely heard the stories about near-drownings and dangerous rescues. You have also likely heard about the real heroes. For example, the veteran Houston police officer who died on a flooded highway while trying to report for duty so he could help during the crisis. Of course, there were also the two volunteer rescue workers who drowned carrying families to safety. The people of Houston are broken, but they are proud – proud of their resilience and proud of their efforts to help their fellow man.
What is very hard to hear about amid all the tragedy and sadness is that this horrible weather event has stirred up much more than your typical storm debris; it has awakened the scammers. Sadly, there are people who take advantage is cases of tragedy. The Washington Post reports that scammers are using robo-calls to try to “fleece” hurricane Harvey survivors. Here’s an example: the scammer dials the phone and when the homeowner answers, they hear that their premiums are past due and they must send money “now” or have their flood insurance cancelled. How awful! These disaster parasites are in a class of their own, called “the lowest class”.
If you know anyone in Houston and Florida who is recovering from Hurricane Harvey or Irma, please talk to him or her about these parasites. One of the biggest scams experienced by storm survivors in recent years has involved dishonest contractors. They get survivors to sign a contract for repair work on a digital tablet; however, when they print out the work sheet, the bid is thousands of dollars higher than what the person originally signed. In some situations, survivors unknowingly assign FEMA disaster aid over to the scammer.
While we would all like to focus on the heroes, it seems it is the constant barrage of parasites that we have to keep watching for. They should be severely prosecuted.
A side note to anyone reading this – give generously to hurricane recovery efforts. There are different ways you can donate, including through the Red Cross and the United Way, as well as other organizations listed below.