DES PLAINES, Ill., May 31, 2019 — The onslaught of violent storms across the country has left a trail of destruction and many victims looking for help to repair or rebuild as quickly as possible. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warns everyone to avoid being victimized a second time by unscrupulous roofers or contractors who come out of the woodwork in the aftermath of hailstorms, tornadoes and severe windstorms.
Victims may be pressured into signing a contract and paying out their insurance claim money or their own savings to a contractor who may take the money and run or do minimal repairs or shoddy repairs, leaving the property owner holding the bag.
The NICB spearheaded the Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC), which has taken high resolution imagery of disasters such as the recent Dayton, Ohio tornados. That imagery is available to GIC insurance company members and to law enforcement and emergency personnel to assist in claim payment and damage assessment efforts. NICB will also use the imagery to investigate possible insurance fraud cases that arise after the events.
“If you didn’t request it, reject it”
Almost all disaster repair scams are unsolicited—they begin with a visit from a contractor who seeks to help victims rebuild. That is why NICB recommends that “if you didn’t request it, reject it.” Before hiring any contractor, call your insurance company. Your insurance company will honor its policy so 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.