Tips to Help You Avoid Becoming a Victim of Fraud Following a Catastrophe
If you have been victimized by a natural catastrophe, beware of scam artists. While catastrophes can bring out the best in people it can also bring out the worst. After each natural disaster, the area affected is inundated by outsiders, including insurance adjusters, emergency/medical personnel and assistance organizations that provide valuable services. Unfortunately, experience has taught us that scam artists are drawn to disasters.
The most common types of fraud that occur after a disaster involve corrupt building repair firms, price gouging, offers of debris removal, and fraudulent charitable solicitations. To protect yourself, it is important to keep a sharp lookout for predators trying to take advantage.
The following can help you avoid becoming a victim:
- Contact your agent immediately. You will want your claim reviewed as soon as possible so that repairs can begin promptly. Make sure to ask if your insurance coverage will provide for additional living expenses.
- Beware of high pressure sales don’t allow anyone to pressure you into signing a contract. Take the time to obtain written estimates from more than one contractor. Make sure to read the entire estimate or contract before you sign.
- Get everything the contractor discusses in writing. If there are changes or modifications in the contract, they should be acknowledged by all parties in writing. Never sign a contract with blanks that have not been filled in.
- Do not make large down payments. Corrupt vendors could disappear after receiving the down payment or after performing limited work
- Know who you are dealing with by verify all licensing concerning those individuals or companies that you are considering hiring. Check with your state’s Better Business Bureau or Contractor’s Licensing Board for more information.
- Hire a vendor with a valid contractor’s license and other identification. If the person claims to be representing a contractor, but can’t show you a contractor’s license, call the contractor and find out if the person is authorized to act on the contractor’s behalf.
- Make sure the vendor carries a general liability and workers’ compensation policy. If the contractor is not insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property. Request a certificate of insurance (COI) from the contractor that shows the name of the insurance company, policy number and policy limits the contractor carries.
If you believe you have been victimized by building repair firms or you have knowledge of suspected insurance fraud, contact:
The National Insurance Crime Bureau or 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422)