Dishonest Contractors Target Victims After Natural Disasters
DES PLAINES, IL, JUNE 28, 2023 — In light of the recent severe storms and tornadoes that hit a wide-ranging area of the U.S. recently, including Texas, Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Oklahoma, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the insurance industry’s association dedicated to predicting, preventing, and prosecuting insurance crime, is providing information and tips to help consumers navigate the insurance and rebuilding process after catastrophic events and disasters occur. NICB is also warning Americans affected by these weather events to stay vigilant against dishonest contractors and scammers.
“After many natural disasters and catastrophic weather events, contractor fraud surges as dishonest contractors target and exploit homeowners, as well as insurance providers, which result in higher insurance costs for everyone,” said NICB President and CEO David J. Glawe. “Recovering and rebuilding from a natural disaster can be an overwhelming task and it is important to make sure homeowners and business owners are not victimized twice.”
Before hiring a contractor:
- Get more than one estimate.
- Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules, and other expectations should be detailed.
- Request references and do the research.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
- Look out for out-of-state contractor licenses, as well as out-of-state vehicle registrations, as these may also indicate possible fraudulent contractors.
- Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished.
- Ensure reconstruction is up to current code.
- Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier.
- Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
- Never let a contractor interpret the language of your insurance policy.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.
- Remember, if you didn’t request it, reject it!
Contractor fraud warning signs:
- Contractor approaches unsolicited to offer services.
- Requires payment upfront to do the job or get you on the schedule faster.
- States they are approved by FEMA or other government agency.
- States they work with multiple insurance companies and suggests they can provide advice interpreting your insurance policy.
When 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 company.
- 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.
- Furthermore, some fraudulent contractors will state they are supported by the federal government. This is false, the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not endorse individual contractors or loan agencies. Consumers should always call FEMA for more specifics at (800) 621-FEMA.