DES PLAINES, Ill., May 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As many parts of the country have already experienced, natural disasters can occur anytime, anyplace. Already this year, there have been over 3,500 severe storms (hail, tornado, wind) according to the National Weather Service. Adding to those figures are unseasonably early wildfires in many states.
As the traditional storm season approaches, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and its nearly 1,100 member insurance companies are warning consumers to be aware of repair and rebuilding scams that often follow a disaster. Although insurance companies work hard to get their policyholders back on their financial feet as rapidly as possible, many times disaster victims fall prey to predatory and fraudulent repair scams perpetrated by individuals looking for a fast buck, usually at a victim's expense.
After a disaster, professionals will often go door-to-door in neighborhoods, which have sustained damage to offer clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most of these business people are reputable, but many are not. The dishonest ones may execute schemes to defraud innocent victims. One such scheme is to pocket the payment and never show up for the job, or never complete a job that was started. Another scheme is to use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code in order to pocket more profit.
Almost all of these scams are unsolicited—they begin with a knock on the door from a contractor who seeks out work. That is why we say, "If you didn't request it, reject it." If you think you might have damage from a storm, call your insurance company first. Your insurance company will honor its policy so there is no need to speak with a contractor who solicits your repair work—especially when you did not request it.
To see a video of post-disaster scams and fraud prevention tips click here.
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
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.
About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote $350 billion in insurance premiums in 2012, or more than 78 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 93 percent ($160 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.
SOURCE National Insurance Crime Bureau