Fraudsters see storms and natural disasters as an opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerability, and your money. If someone comes knocking on your door, offering to help you repair storm damage, think twice before agreeing to hire them.
NBC10 Responds spoke with the National Insurance Crime Bureau about ways to recover from a storm, and avoid contractor fraud.
Once the Storm Has Passed
As soon as the storm has passed and you can safely evaluate the damage, document everything and take pictures. “This list will help you when your insurance adjuster arrives on scene. This will allow you to point out everything you notice as well,” NICB spokesperson Tully Lehman said. “Any damage to personal belongings inside your home, should they get wet, photograph or video record (them), (then) remove them from inside the house, and cover with a tarp, but hold onto them until an adjuster arrives.”
Have a consumer complaint? Call 215-201-5310
Before starting repair work, it's important to verify the repairs that will be covered under your insurance policy.
When Hiring a Contractor
Before hiring a contractor, ask for proof they’re registered to do business in your state. This comes in the form of a contractor license number. The contractor should be able to supply this at a moment’s notice. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware’s state websites allow you to search for licensed contractors.
Ask the contractor for references, and look up reviews online. The more information you have, the better decision you can make.
Red Flags to Look For
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, you should keep an eye out for contractors who:
- Show up unsolicited at your door because they “happen to be in the neighborhood.”
- Say they work with multiple insurance companies “all the time” and suggest they can advise on how to interpret your insurance policy.
- Require payment upfront to do the job or to “get you on the schedule faster.”
- Say they are approved by FEMA or other government agencies.
Other Important Things to Watch Out
- Talk to more than one contractor and get multiple estimates.
- Do not sign a contract with blank spaces that can be altered after signing.
- Ensure you have a written contract with details on what service the contractor will perform, what materials are included, estimated start and end dates.
- Inspect the work and only pay after you are satisfied
- Instead of paying cash, use a card or check to keep a record of transactions.
- Call your insurer before paying and working with any contractor.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau assembled this Post-Disaster Contractor Search Checklist to help walk you through the process.
If you suspect you are a victim of fraud, reach out to local law enforcement, your insurance company, or the National Insurance Crime Bureau at 1-800-TEL-NICB or go to NICB.org/REPORTFRAUD.
If you have a consumer problem, tell us about it. Fill out the NBC10 Responds complaint form here, and a member of our team will respond to you.