A catastrophe greatly magnifies the opportunity for fraud and abuse.
Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hailstorms—becoming a victim of a disaster may be impossible to avoid. However, it's entirely possible to avoid dishonest contractors lurking in the wake of a disaster if you're equipped with the right information.
After a disaster, contractors often go door-to-door in damaged neighborhoods offering cleanup or repair services. While many of these people are honest and reputable; others are not. Dishonest contractors may try to pocket more profit by:
- Accepting payment then never completing (or even showing up for) the job.
- Using inferior materials or performing shoddy work that’s not up to code.
Watch out for these scams to avoid being victimized by dishonest contractors:
Review these tips to avoid fraud after a catastrophe:
WORKING WITH INSURANCE
- Call your insurance company first if you think you might have damage from a storm or other disaster.
- Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance.
- Never let a contractor interpret the language of your insurance policy or discourage you from contacting your insurance company.
- Be on the lookout for people calling and saying they are with a national carrier. Do not provide ANY personal information over the phone without them first confirming a claim number. If something sounds fishy, report it to your insurance company immediately.
- Note that insurance carriers will never ask you to pay your deductible up front or over the phone.
HIRING A CONTRACTOR
- Get more than one estimate. Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
- Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
- Demand references and check them.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license, write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
GETTING THE WORK DONE
- Get contract terms in writing. Cost, time schedules, payment schedules, guarantees, work to be done, and other expectations should be detailed.
- Never sign a contract with blanks.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished, and ensure reconstruction is up to current code.