From May 23 through May 27, the National Insurance Crime Bureau is highlighting the problem of contractors and vendors who take advantage of disaster victims in the aftermath of catastrophes.
Hoping that vulnerable homeowners are more concerned about the safety of their family than they are about going over a contract with a fine-tooth comb, some contractors and vendors may pressure people into hiring them with slick sales pitches and suspiciously good prices.
After homeowners sign the contract, these fraudsters either complete the work with shoddy materials or, if they were able to get the money up front, skip town without having done the work at all.
Contractor fraud is a multi-billion-dollar problem and the NICB encourages homeowners to follow these tips in the wake of a natural disaster:
- If It's Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is! – Crooked contractors lurk in the wake of hurricanes and hail hoping to catch homeowners off guard. Be suspicious of any contractor who approaches you in the aftermath of a storm and always call your insurance before having any repairs done.
- Let's See Some ID – Ask any contractor or salesperson for their driver's license, their license plate, their state contractor's license, and proof of insurance. Don't be afraid to ask for references or search the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed regarding the contractor.
- Be a Savvy Shopper – Get estimates from multiple contractors before having any repairs done. Pushy salespeople often try to pressure you into signing right away, but by taking your time and weighing your options, you can get quality work done for the best price possible.
- Read the Fine Print – Make sure any contract you are signing includes EVERYTHING in writing. The cost of the work, time schedules, payment schedules, guarantees, work to be done, and other expectations should all be detailed. Keep an eye out for any blank spaces. Shady contractors can fill these in after you sign!
- Make Sure the Contractor Shows Their Work – Don't sign a contract that requires you to pay for the work before it is done. This allows fraudsters to take your money and skip town without doing the work.
For more information on Contractor Fraud and how to avoid being a victim, visit our Contractor Fraud Awareness Week page.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of Contractor Fraud or you have seen contractors and vendors canvassing residential areas hit by a catastrophe, first call your insurance company, then call NICB at 800.TEL.NICB or fill out our online form.