If You Didn't Request It – Reject It
DES PLAINES, Ill., March 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- So far this year, violent weather has cut a swath of death and destruction across vast stretches of the country. Preliminary numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center show 2,068 severe weather reports as of March 10, 2012. These include tornadoes, wind and hail storms.
Right now, insurance company representatives are in the field staffing catastrophe centers and working non-stop to assist victims in rebuilding their lives, their homes and their businesses. As hard as these professionals work to quickly handle the thousands of claims that these kinds of events generate, there are always some victims who experience additional pain—not from the storms, but from greedy scam artists and unscrupulous contractors.
After a disaster, contractors and others 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 begin with an unsolicited visit from a contractor. That is why we say, "If you didn't request it, reject it." If you have damage from a storm, contact your insurance company first. Your insurance company will honor its policy and will cover you for losses so there is no need to speak with a contractor who solicits your repair work—especially when you did not request it.
Watch the NICB disaster fraud video 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 contractor'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
You can download our disaster fraud brochure and other fraud awareness materials here.
Finally, if you believe you have been approached by an unscrupulous contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or call the NICB toll-free at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422). You may also text keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or report it online by visiting our Web site at www.nicb.org. iPhone or iPad users can download the NICB Fraud Tips app to make it easy to quickly send a tip and get a response.
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 over $319 billion in insurance premiums in 2010, or approximately 80 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 94 percent ($152 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.
SOURCE National Insurance Crime Bureau