North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey urged people victimized by Hurricane Florence to stay strong and avoid being taken advantage of by dishonest contractors and scam artists.
“Many of you are already under tremendous emotional stress, so the last thing you want to do is become a victim twice,” Commissioner Causey said. “You can’t prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a natural disaster, but you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of insurance fraud.”
Commissioner Causey noted that a catastrophe such as Florence greatly magnifies the opportunity for fraud and abuse. “Don’t be tempted to conspire in a fraudulent insurance claim,” Commissioner Causey said. “A fraudulent claim could result in your claim not getting paid. And since insurance fraud is a crime, you could end up with serious legal problems.”
Commissioner Causey urged victims of Florence to take photos of the damage to their property once they’re able to return to it. He also reminded property owners that homeowner’s policies generally do not cover damage caused by flooding. That is covered under FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
Commissioner Causey offered the following tips to remember before acting on a contractor’s offer for services:
- Beware of contractor or roofing representatives going door-to-door after a disaster, such as Hurricane Florence.
- Call your insurance agent or insurance company before signing a contract or paying for repairs.
- Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
- Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
- Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
- Require references and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license. Write down the license number. Also take down his or her license plate number.
- Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is completed.
To report suspected fraud, contact the N.C. Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840.