Commissioner’s Office and NICB Personnel Deployed to Catastrophe Claims Village
DES PLAINES, IL, January 24, 2023 — Deadly tornados moved across the Southeast earlier this month impacting thousands of homeowners and business owners alike. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King is reminding residents to stay vigilant when hiring a contractor, or other vendors, to make repairs to homes and businesses.
“Following the impacts of powerful tornados causing devastation to homes in the Southeast, dishonest contractors will work to defraud individuals in their time of need,” said NICB President and CEO David Glawe. “We know residents want to get back on their feet, but this is not a time to let your guard down. Protect yourself and your loved ones from these criminals.”
“Unfortunately, bad actors know to target victims at their most vulnerable, such as after a storm-related loss,” said Commissioner King. “Beware of anyone who shows up at your home or place of business immediately after a storm. Your first call after a disaster should be to your insurance company to file a claim. Whether it’s a contractor or public adjuster, do your research and verify credentials before signing any contracts or agreeing to any services.”
Commissioner King recently announced that he is deploying agency staff to assist Georgia residents by setting up a local Catastrophe Claims Village. NICB agents will be on the ground alongside the Commissioner’s staff providing boots on the ground support for victims in need.
The village will be held at the Oxford Village Shopping Center 921 Memorial Dr. Griffin, GA 30223 this Wednesday, January 25 and Thursday, January 26 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
Those unable to attend the event are encouraged to call the Consumer Services Hotline for assistance at 1-800-656-2298, available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Before hiring a contractor, call your insurance company. There is no need to rush into an agreement with a contractor who solicits your repair work, especially if it was not requested.
NICB and Commissioner King suggest the following tips 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 and itemized.
- 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 vehicle registrations, as these may also indicate possible fraudulent contractors.
- Never sign a contract with blanks; terms you don’t agree with 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. Signing an Assignment of Benefits agreement transfers your insurance rights to the contractor. Know what that means for you.
- Never let a contractor pressure you into making a quick decision or hiring them.
- Never let a contractor interpret the language of your insurance policy.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company. Contact your insurance company first.
- Remember, if you didn’t request it, reject it!
Furthermore, some deceitful contractors will state they are supported by the government. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not endorse individual contractors or loan agencies. Always request official identification from those claiming to represent governmental agencies. Consumers should call FEMA for more specifics at (800) 621-FEMA.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, call the NICB at 1-800-TEL-NICB. For additional information, visit NICB’s website, www.NICB.org.