Unscrupulous Contractors, Fraudsters Selling Flood-Damaged Vehicles Prey on Unsuspecting Consumers
DES PLAINES, Ill., Aug. 5, 2020 — As Hurricane Isaias leaves a path of destruction in its wake, homeowners are left putting their lives back together. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warns everyone to avoid being victimized by deceitful roofers or contractors who will be seeking to take advantage of an already tragic situation.
After disasters, deceitful contractors may press homeowners into paying out their insurance claim prior to the repairs being completed. Time and again, we 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 storm 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 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 insurance policy language.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.
As floodwaters recede, many flood-damaged vehicles are left in the wake. This provides another opportunity for fraudsters to dupe innocent car buyers. NICB encourages purchasers of used cars to do their homework. To that end, NICB provides a free, useful tool called VINCheck that allows consumers to check a vehicle for a “red flag” such as theft, accident damage, or salvage titles.
Dishonest dealers can buy flooded vehicles, clean them up, and sell them to unsuspecting buyers. 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.