NICB Urges Caution as Consumers Seek Contractors to Conduct Repairs
DES PLAINES, Ill., April 1, 2021 — After tornadoes, hail storms, heavy rains, and high winds have moved through several states, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reminds consumers that in the weeks ahead, homeowners should be alert to potential fraud by deceitful contractors and home repair or debris cleanup businesses.
Following a disaster, victims are understandably confused and shaken by the damage or possible loss of their homes and belongings. Sadly, it is at this time crooked contractors arrive and press homeowners into paying out their insurance claim prior to the repairs being completed. Time and again, investigators with the NICB have seen these bad actors collect payment and then disappear without completing the work that was promised.
Typically, these disaster repair scams are unsolicited, beginning with a visit from a contractor who seeks to help victims rebuild. Before hiring any 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 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.
- 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 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 could 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.
Furthermore, some deceitful contractors will state they are supported by the government. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not endorse individual contractors or loan 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 on hiring contractors, follow this link.