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March 27, 2024

Buying a house? Beware of seller impersonation fraud.


One of the fastest-growing real estate scams targets vacant or unoccupied houses for sale.

It starts with someone forging documents to sell a house they don’t own. They list a house below market value and accept a quick offer – with a preference towards cash buyers – to steal the money from the sale.

Put your guard up if a seller:

  • Tells your agent they only want a cash buyer.
  • Doesn’t show up for closing or asks to sign documents electronically.
  • Asks for a remote notary at signing and wants to use their own notary.
  • Asks that the money from the sale go directly to them.

Some tips:

  • Visit the house you want in person. Only the real homeowner can give your agent the key.
  • Ask your agent to use a trusted in-person notary at closing.
  • Buy title insurance. Your real estate agent will likely recommend it and your mortgage company will probably require it. Title insurance protects you from problems with an ownership title.

Report fraud to the Texas Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, and your local police.

Learn more

March 3, 2023

Insurance fraud could happen to you


Do you think insurance fraud rarely happens or mostly on TV dramas?

Think again.

Last year, the Fraud Unit at the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) got more than 16,000 reports of possible fraud. The unit, which has officers around the state, worked on nearly 400 criminal investigations. It currently has more than 170 ongoing investigations in 40 Texas counties.

Tips to protect yourself from fraud:

  • When shopping for insurance, check that the agent you’re working with has a state license. You can call the TDI Help Line at 800-252-3439 or look up the agent on TDI’s website,
  • Be wary of buying a policy from anyone who only accepts cash or who wants to meet you only at your home or in a parking lot.
  • If someone tells you that you must act today or you'll lose the offer, that's usually a bad sign. Legitimate insurance plans won’t have purchase deadlines. Don't be rushed when shopping for insurance.
  • After you buy a policy, call the insurance company to confirm that the policy is in your name.
  • If you’re asked to cash in an annuity or some other life insurance policy to buy a different annuity or policy, don't take the bait. Annuities and life insurance products are generally worth more the longer you hold onto them.

Listen to more on stopping insurance fraud in Texas in The Texas Insurance Podcast, featuring Chris Davis of TDI’s Fraud Unit.

View podcast Q&A: What’s insurance fraud?

Learn more

January 5, 2023

Texans, especially older adults, should beware of phone, online scams


Your phone rings, you answer, and someone with a friendly voice asks for your bank account or Social Security number.

Hang up. It’s probably a scam.

Fraudsters tend to target older people, who are often more trusting and vulnerable. Older people are also more likely to talk to someone they don’t know.

In 2021, more than 6,700 Texans over age 60 reported losing more than $159 million to fraud.

Common scams:

  • A caller offers to fix a non-existent computer problem or to renew a fraudulent software or security subscription. The caller might even transfer you to fake “customer service” staff.
  • A caller pretending to be a grandchild calling from another country and needing hundreds of dollars fast. Once money gets sent outside the United States, it’s very hard to recover.
  • A call or email that says you’ve won a sweepstakes or lottery. The catch: You need to pay thousands of dollars to get the bigger prize.
  • Someone on the phone or sending an email adopts a fake identity to gain affection and confidence. The scammer builds a relationship with the victim to steal their money.

How do you avoid these and insurance scams? Listen to The Texas Insurance Podcast, featuring tips from Tim Morstad of AARP Texas.

View podcast Q&A:  How older adults can avoid scams

Learn more

August 10, 2022

TDI fraud investigation leads to another guilty plea from a former NFL player


Former Dolphins draft pick Jonathan Rex Hadnot pleaded guilty last week to his role in a scheme to defraud the Gene Upshaw NFL Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). The account was designed to help former pro players with some of the cost of health issues associated with their time in the league. 

Hadnot pleaded guilty in a Harris County court to submitting false medical claims for reimbursement. He collected nearly $30,000 from the HRA for medical treatments he never received. He’ll have to repay that money and serve five years’ probation.

The case was investigated by Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) investigators and prosecutors working with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Eight former players have been identified in Harris County in connection with the scheme, as well as a Houston athletic trainer.

You can report suspected insurance fraud by calling TDI’s Help Line at 800-252-3439.

Read more about the multi-year investigation and the individuals involved:

Houston athletic trainer and former NFL players indicted for fraud

January 24, 2022

Don’t ‘puff’ your cold car or truck outdoors; keep thieves away

It’s tempting in cold weather to start your car or truck and then scoot indoors while it turns toasty. This is known as “puffing” because steam puffs out of the exhaust pipe while your ride warms up.

But beware. Thieves may see your unattended vehicle as a drive-away opportunity.

Over a recent three-year period, more than 17,000 Texas cars and trucks were stolen with keys or fobs left inside. And that count may be low because many drivers don’t admit to making the mistake. These incidents also aren’t noted in police reports or insurance claims, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Other tips to avoid break-ins and thefts

  • Lock doors and windows as soon as you enter your vehicle.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Use a loud alarm or an anti-theft device a thief can see.
  • Install a catalytic converter cover or lock.

Learn more

October 14, 2021

Protect your information from scams during Medicare open enrollment

Did you get a phone call from someone offering a free COVID-19 vaccine or a gift if you give them your Medicare information? It’s probably a scam. A health plan will never call you out of the blue and ask for personal information.

Medicare open enrollment—the time of year you can sign up for or make changes to a Medicare plan—is from October 15 to December 7. Which also makes it prime time for scammers.

Never give your Medicare information to someone you didn’t expect to get a call from. If you aren’t sure, call 800-252-9240 to find your Area Agency on Aging, or check with your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

About 4 million Texans have health insurance coverage through Medicare. In our new video, we talked to Yvette McVeigh with the Area Agency on Aging. McVeigh explains what to do when your plan doesn’t cover the medications you need or let you see the specialist who’s right for you. She also had great advice for avoiding scams.

April 19, 2021

New podcast looks at increase in auto thefts

Auto thefts were up in Texas and across the nation last year. In our new podcast, we talk to Sgt. Tracy Hicks with the Houston Police Department’s Auto Theft Crimes Task Force about what you can do to protect your car or truck from burglaries and theft.

Man breaking into a car

Thieves often break into cars to look for guns, Sgt. Hicks said. Be especially careful when going to a gun range or store because thieves may be watching the parking lots to identify potential targets. He suggested getting a car safe if you carry guns or other valuables in your car.

Catalytic converters are another hot commodity for thieves, who sell the precious metals inside. Catalytic converters easy to steal and hard to identify. Hybrid cars are often targeted because their catalytic converters – and the metals inside – are usually cleaner than on gas cars. You can get a catalytic converter lock or cover installed to make it harder to remove.

Check out our podcast for more about the latest trends in auto theft and how to protect your car or truck.

We have also a video interview with Sgt. Hicks and information about insurance coverage for auto thefts and burglaries.

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