As the 2017 storm season begins, be prepared to help avoid becoming a victim of home repair and contractor fraud. These five red flags can help alert you to times when you are at risk of being scammed by unscrupulous contractors.
Someone who just “shows up”
After storms, many homeowners find that contractors appear in their neighborhood going door to door and offering to get a head start on fixing any damage. While it’s perfectly OK to listen to their pitch, take their card, and politely thank them for their time, you should then let them know that you will reach out if you need them, and say goodbye.
New information without verification
Sometimes a contractor will pose as a “good Samaritan” and knock on your door to inform you that they have noticed a problem you’ve been unaware of – and by the way, they can repair it for you. Best of all, they say, your insurance will pay for it! This is a common scam; often there is nothing wrong at all (or the person broke or damaged something on purpose.) Always call your insurance company first if you suspect you have damage; they are there to help you.
Wanting to access your roof before the insurance adjuster
Unscrupulous contractors have been known to intentionally cause more damage to roofs to increase the amount of work needed and pad their profits. Make sure the insurance adjuster is able to correctly assess the damage and document it before allowing anyone else access to your roof. If a tarp needs to be put up over a hole in the roof, make sure the company doing this provides pictures of the entire affected area first. The Olympus Roof Repair Program is designed to protect you from fraud.
High pressure demands or hard sells
If your chosen contractor starts pushing hard for you to make a decision on repairs and offers to eliminate your deductible if you just sign an “Assignment of Benefits (AOB)” form, back away slowly and call your insurance company. Most insurance fraud in Florida is AOB fraud – and signing the form means you transfer all of your rights to the contractor. Unscrupulous contractors will pad the costs, and if the insurance company doesn’t pay the inflated bill, they can then sue “on your behalf”. Learning more about how to avoid AOB fraud can help protect you.
No identification or permit
Real contractors will be wearing a company shirt or have a business card and city permit. Some random person without official ID could be a scammer. Always ask if they are a licensed Florida contractor, ask for references from previous jobs, and shy away immediately if you are asked to pay in cash for anything.
You can help reduce the risks of contractor fraud by being vigilant and understanding your rights and responsibilities under your insurance policy. Make your insurance company your first call, every time.