Homeowners: Beware of These Common Scams After a Natural Disaster

Hurricane Ian hits FloridaGeorgia and South Carolina this week, which is why billions of dollars in damage For businesses and home owners. But hurricanes aren’t the only threat to those in their path.

Natural disasters like Ian’s usually attract scammers, sometimes called “storm chasers”, who pose as reputable contractors and give damaged communities their insurance payments or other benefits, such as private donations or federal Travels to damaged communities to get out of recovery funds.

But there are ways to catch fraudsters, experts told CBS Moneywatch. It starts with simply being aware of the scandals that often follow the destruction left by hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other disasters. Here are the three most common scams, along with tips from insurance pros on how to get taken along for the ride.

fake contractor

Fake contractors often appear a day or two after a major storm hits an area and set up shop in a strip mall or recreational vehicle, said David Glave, CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. These fraudsters will contact homeowners and let them know that employees can begin repairing their home immediately, as long as they sign a contract with the company. The contract, however, reassigns any upcoming insurance payments to the counterfeit company rather than to its intended recipient, the homeowner.

Those affected by a major storm are trying to get back on their feet as quickly as possible, and these fake contractors are like “vultures” who use people’s understandable desire to resume life as normal. Let’s hunt, Glave said.

“Vulnerable people will think they’re getting a quick fix, but they won’t,” he told CBS Moneywatch.

If someone contacts you who claims to be a contractor, take down that person’s name and phone number, Glave advised. Research the company online and make sure it is licensed to operate in your state or city. If the company has received bad reviews from the Better Business Bureau or does not have a registered license, it is likely to be a scam.

“If your Spidey senses are taking off, deny them,” Glave said.

roof breakers

Another common scam involves someone offering to visit your home after a severe storm and check for damage to your roof.

Once on your roof, the person pretends to spot or actually intentionally damage your property, sometimes using golf balls under their shoes to simulate puncture marks from hail. They then offer to help the homeowner submit a loss claim to the insurance provider. Fake roofers are paid by persuading the homeowner to file a claim with their insurance company and then send them a check.

A red flag is that if someone is offering door-to-door roofing work, using push-back tactics and demanding payment, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association may call Florida said Logan McFaddin, a regional manager doing the cover.

“Never pay in full,” she said. “Well legitimate contractors don’t do the work. Payment is made in installments as the work is done.”

McFaddin said the best strategy is to ask the person at your door for a list of references. A reputable company should be able to provide that information, she said. He added that experts also recommend getting a price quote from two or three licensed roofers before taking any decision.

no debris cleaning program

For this scam, bad actors usually target the elderly or disabled. Someone pretending to represent the removal company will go door-to-door asking homeowners to sign a contract and make a down payment to have someone remove fallen tree branches, debris, and garbage from their lawn . The person leaves with a signed contract and money for the down payment, but no one comes back to work.

Glave said the best approach is to not give anyone a down payment for future services and offer payment only after the job is done.

“Once you pay them that money, it’s out the door and you can’t get it back,” he said.

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