Deceitful Contractors and Fraudsters Trying to Unload Flood-Damaged Vehicles Prey on Unsuspecting Consumers
DES PLAINES, Ill., September 9, 2021 — Hurricane Ida left a path of destruction from New Orleans to New York, leaving homeowners with the unenviable task of putting their lives back together. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warns policyholders to avoid being victimized a second time by deceitful roofers or contractors who arrive unsolicited to target areas affected by natural disasters or by dishonest sellers of vehicles, who won’t disclose flood damage.
“After every natural catastrophe, NICB investigators on the ground see contractors move in to impacted regions offering their services to help people get their homes put back together,” said David Glawe, president and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “Most of the time, these contractors are honorable and do good, solid work. Unfortunately, there are those that have other motivations and attempt to take advantage of the stresses and strains disaster victims experience, pressure them to sign a contract, ask for payment in advance and then do shoddy or no work at all. There is no need to rush into an agreement with a contractor who solicits your repair work—especially when you did not request it.”
NICB suggests you consider these 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.
- Demand references and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
- 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 and 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 insurance policy language.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.
Flood Damaged Vehicles
Homeowners are not alone when it comes to fraud after a storm. As floodwaters recede, many flood-damaged vehicles emerge providing an opportunity for fraudsters to prey on innocent used car buyers. NICB encourages purchasers to do their homework.
NICB provides a free, useful tool called VINCheck that allows consumers check a vehicle for a “red flag” such as theft, accident damage or written off as a total loss through an insurance company.
Dishonest dealers and other individuals can buy flooded vehicles, dry and clean them and sell them to unsuspecting buyers as used vehicles. Many of these vehicles come on the market after natural disasters. If you are shopping for a used vehicle, NICB recommends checking a few items that could indicate whether the vehicle is a flood recovery vehicle or not. Some steps to follow are:
- Buy from a reputable car dealer.
- Check the car thoroughly looking for water stains, mildew, sand and silt under the carpets, headliner and behind the dashboard.
- Look under the hood for signs of oxidation. Pull back the rubber “boots” around electrical and mechanical connections for these indicators. Ferrous (containing iron) materials will show signs of rust; copper will show a green patina; aluminum and alloys will have a white powder and pitting.