NICB to Boston-Area Homeowners: Beware of Insurance Scammers

February 17, 2015

The National Insurance Crime Bureau advised that as the Northeast continues to get pounded by storm after storm, there’s one more threat that Bostonians need to watch out for: shady contractors or “storm chasers” looking to make a fraudulent buck using consumers’ homeowners insurance.

The Des Plaines, Illinois-based NICB said that after a disaster, contractors will often go door-to-door in affected neighborhoods offering clean up, construction or other repair services. Most of these business people are reputable, but many are not. The dishonest ones may execute schemes to defraud innocent victims, such as:

• pocketing the payment and never showing up for the job;
• never completing a job that was started; or
• using inferior materials and performing shoddy work that’s not up to code.

The NICB said almost all of these scams are unsolicited — they begin with a knock on the door from a contractor seeking work. The NICB recommends that “if you didn’t request it, reject it.” If there is damage, consumers are advised to call their insurance company first.

NICB offers these tips before hiring a contractor:

• Take pictures of the property before, during and after the damage
• Get more than one estimate
• Get everything in writing: cost, work to be performed, work and payment schedules, guarantees, and any other expectations
• 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 could 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 to review and understand all documents sent to the insurance carrier
• Don’t be pressured to into hiring contractors or letting them do unnecessary work
• Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language
• Never let a contractor discourage the consumer from contacting the insurance company

The NICB is a leading not-for-profit organization 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/casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote $371 billion in insurance premiums in 2013, or more than 78 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance.

Source: The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)

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