Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hailstorms — experiencing a disaster may be impossible to avoid. Yet as homeowners deal with the aftermath of a catastrophe, if they aren’t careful, they could be victimized by dishonest contractors.
“AAA is urging homeowners to be leery of contractors who go door-to-door in damaged neighborhoods offering cleanup or repair services after a catastrophe,” said Bobby Futch, vice president of claims for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “While some of these workers may be honest and reputable; there are those looking to take advantage of residents at their most vulnerable time.”
Dishonest contractors may try to pocket more profit by:
- Accepting payment then never completing (or even showing up for) the job.
- Using inferior materials or performing shoddy work that’s not up to code.
Tips to avoid fraud after a catastrophe
- Working with your Insurance Provider
- Call your insurance company first if you think you might have damage from a storm or other disaster.
- Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurer.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.
- Be on the lookout for people calling and saying they are with a national carrier. Do not provide any personal information over the phone without them first confirming a claim number. If something sounds fishy, report it to your insurance company immediately.
- Note that insurance carriers will never ask you to pay your deductible up front or over the phone.
Hiring a Contractor
- Get more than one estimate. Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
- Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
- Request references and check them.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license, write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
Getting the Work Done
- Get contract terms in writing. Cost, time schedules, payment schedules, guarantees, work to be done and other expectations should be detailed.
- Never sign a contract with blanks.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished, and ensure reconstruction is up to current code.
- If you didn’t request it, reject it.
- If you believe you’ve been approached by an unlicensed contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or NICB immediately.
Reporting Insurance Fraud
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud can report it anonymously. Call 800-835-6422. Or submit a form online at nicb.org/reportfraud