Phishing and Donations

The recent flooding in Texas and the resulting devastation has been a painful reminder of how little control we have over our environment. While most have responded with compassion, there are always those who would seek to profit off of the confusion of a natural disaster by using that compassion against those wishing to help. The following recommendations and sources of information are presented here, in order to ensure that you do not become a victim of phishing scams.

  1. How to Avoid Phishing Scams
  • Always be wary of phone calls. If someone calls you on the phone ask for a call back number. Do not let them push you to donate at that time. Ask for the name of the organization, and hang up. It is worth taking a few moments to check if the organization is legitimate, and most of these organization will have websites where you can give directly. Verifying most charities is easy, and can be done through the Better Business Bureau Giving Alliance.
  • Another popular method of phishing comes by way of email. There are a few things to watch out for here and steps you can take to protect yourself:
  1. Make sure that your virus protection software is up to date.
  2. Disable the automatic download of email attachments.
  3. If you open an email that appears to be from a legitimate source, you should still refrain from using the links in the email. Go directly to the website from your search browser, eliminating the risks that may come from engaging directly with the email.
  4. Some hackers have the ability to make it appear that the email is coming from someone you know! Make sure to contact these people directly using another means. Please also consider that while the email may be coming from someone you know, they themselves may have been duped!
  5. While some government agencies recommend that you save attachments sent in emails and scan them, we do not recommend downloading these attachments. Just go to a trusted source, it isn’t worth the risk.
  1. How to Know Your Money is Going to the Right Place? Give to Charities You Know.

Being proactive with your donation efforts is the best way to ensure that your efforts go where they are most needed. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, in conjunction with the State of Texas, has launched the Rebuild Texas Fund which takes donations directly from their website. Another option to consider is utilizing the Better Business Bureau list of reputable charities.

  1. How to Report Phishing

If you suspect that someone has attempted to make you the victim of a phishing scheme, please report it immediately. Taking the time to report suspected phishing activities can help stop these activities and ensure that aid is making it to those who need it most.

FEMA Disaster Assistance

In order to apply for FEMA assistance go to the disaster assistance website. Once at that address, you can either apply for assistance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or if you don’t have insurance, you can apply through the blue “apply online” checklist to see what assistance will be available to you.

According to FEMA you will need the following information to fill out your claim:

  1. Social Security Number
  2. Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address)
  3. Current mailing address
  4. Current telephone number
  5. Insurance Information
  6. Total household annual income
  7. Routing and account number for your checking or savings account. (this allow FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into your bank account)
  8. A description of your disaster caused damages and losses.

Please Note:

(The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Murrah & Killough, PLLC and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney).

Changes to Texas Insurance Law – Effective September 1, 2017

Dear Friends and Clients,

We would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to those who have been affected by the tragic events of the past week. The City of Houston will take months to fully recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey. Murrah and Killough will be here to assist you in any way that we can as you recover from any damage the storm may have caused.

With that in mind, you may have heard a great deal about a new insurance law in Texas that is set to go into effect on September 1st. There has been a great deal of discourse on the topic, some of it misinformation. We would like to provide you with our analysis of the real-world implications of the new law.

HB 1774, also known as the “Hailstorm” act, was passed as a reform to the process and procedure for filing lawsuits relating to certain insurance claims resulting from weather events, including damage and loss caused by natural disasters. Most of the reforms change certain procedural requirements for pre-suit notice of a lawsuit against your insurance company as well as the amount of interest the insurance company must pay on claims that are underpaid or paid late. The new law may also impact the amount of attorney fees recoverable in a lawsuit. That said, there is no change in the process of making the insurance claim itself and the new does not affect or limit the principal amount that a claimant can recover.

However, the new law does limit the amount a claimant may recover IF an insurer fails to pay a legitimate claim ”timely and fully.” The previous statute mandated that an insurer pay a claimant 18% interest on untimely payments. The Hailstorm act limits the allowable interest to a floating rate between 10-20%. The current rate is 10% and is not likely to rise any time in the foreseeable future. If a claim or lawsuit is filed prior to September 1st, then the claimant will be able to recover the amount of penalty interest set in the previous law, 18%. If not, the claimant will be limited by the provisions of the Hailstorm act.

For this reason, we recommend that any insurance claim be filed no later than Thursday, August 31, 2017, so that your potential rights and remedies are at their strongest. If, for whatever reason, you do not file your claim prior to September 1st, the principal amount you are able to recover should not be impacted and you should still file your claim as you normally would. A significant impact that filing on or after September 1st  will have is the amount of interest you can collect on untimely or inadequate payments of your claim.

This recommendation is only out of an abundance of caution and to protect yourself in the event that your insurer does not timely pay your claim. We are happy to assist you with filing any claims if you would like. Our office is open and ready to help in any way we can during this difficult time.

 

Sincerely,

css.php