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Bell County residents warned about scammers looking to exploit tornado survivors

The home of Sharon Whitt was heavily damaged after a tornado tore through the area on Tuesday,...
The home of Sharon Whitt was heavily damaged after a tornado tore through the area on Tuesday, April 12. Her daughter, LeAnn Hildebrand was able to hide in a bathroom with her son and stayed safe as the storm passed over.(Michael Cantu KWTX)
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 6:22 PM CDT
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SALADO, Texas (KWTX) - Bell County officials on Friday asked home and property owners impacted by the EF3 tornado to be informed about proper debris clearance and to avoid falling prey to fraudsters.

“Scam artists and identity thieves flood into the area, trying to exploit survivors,” said Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Reinhard. “It is already happening.”

Residents, Reinhard said, can follow three easy rules when working with vendors. First, always get multiple bids. Second, get any estimate for work and costs in writing.

Finally, never, under any circumstances, pay for services up front.

Learn more about how you can donate to the Central Texas Tornado Relief Fund

“Scam contractors will try to manipulate disaster survivors with scare tactics or extremely low bids,” Reinhard said. “Legitimate contractors come with references and written guarantees.”

As residents work to clear their properties of debris, they must organize it into six categories: electronics, hazardous waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage, large appliances, and vegetative debris.

“Organizing debris is this way will make it easier to dispose of,” said Reinhard, “and it is much easier to organize it while it’s being cleared, rather than after the fact.”

Officials from the Texas Department of Emergency Management say proper debris organization can save homeowners money.

“Metal, like large appliances and some of these roofs, can be recycled in such a way as to generate money,” Reinhard said.

Just as important as organizing debris, is avoiding placing it in dangerous places.

“Given that we still have crews working in the area, it’s important that debris not be placed in the road or right-of-way area,” Reinhard said. “You also have to be mindful of not locating it on or near downed powerlines or close to utility boxes.”

Reinhard said multiple roll-off dumpsters have been brought into the affected area. There are currently two located in the South Shore subdivision.

Other dumpsters are available at the Salado Fire Department at 3520 FM 2484 and at the intersection of FM 2268 and IH-35.

The Bell County Emergency Management Department plans to place two additional roll-off dumpsters along 2843, once utility crews have finished their work in the area.

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