The United States is in the midst of a very active Hurricane season. With all of these storms, the potential for fraud is extremely high. The National Insurance Crime Bureau's (NICB) Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Slater and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Pat Martin joined AARP Fraud Watch Network's Jeff Abramo for an in-depth conversation on contractor fraud after natural disasters.
Dishonest contractors see natural disasters as opportunities to take advantage of innocent victims. The NICB has seen many of these contractors not complete work, use poor quality materials, and manipulate the price to cover deductibles.
"One of the things we talk about at AARP is the idea of getting people 'under the ether'. Getting them in an emotional, vulnerable state so they may be more susceptible to some of the things scammers want to do. I find that in many of these cases, the storms actually have already done some of that work," Jeff Abramo, AARP Fraud Watch Network said.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine dishonest contractors from a genuine one. Some indicators of contractor fraud include:
- Showing up after a disaster unsolicited
- Using scare tactics
- Pressuring a homeowner to sign a contract
- Quoting an extremely low price due to "surplus" materials
- No references
- Asking for payment upfront – especially in cash
The NICB offers a number of tips to those affected by a natural disaster. Planning ahead is critical. If a storm is heading your way, make sure you know where your important documents are and consider making digital copies.
The NICB urges disaster victims to speak with their insurance agent. If repairs are needed, compare multiple contractors via the Better Business Bureau.
Do your homework.
"The more you can be educated and prepared around all different types of scams, the better you'll be able to respond if you find yourself in that situation," Jeff Abramo said.
If you have been a victim of contractor fraud, report them to your local police and NICB. You can also contact the AARP Help Line by calling 877-908-3360.