SCAM ALERT: Hurricane Season Creates ‘Perfect Storm’ for Shady Operators

By  //  June 30, 2016

home repair insurance fraud

ABOVE VIDEO: Longtime Central Florida Meteorologist and Space Coast Daily corespondent Danny Treanor offers some advice on how to prepare for the hurricanes.

While a major hurricane hasn’t made landfall in Florida in the last 10 years, experts say it’s not a matter of “if” our time will come, but “when.” The transition from an El Niño weather pattern to La Niña creates the perfect environment for weaker wind shears and stronger storms.

Already this year, just one week into hurricane season, Tropical Storm Colin brought a new record: the earliest that three named storms have hit the Atlantic basin.

Hurricanes and tropical storms pose significant threats to homeowners. No matter how well your home is built, 100-mph winds blowing rain in every direction can force water to seep under your doors and windows, causing extensive – often expensive – water damage.

Unfortunately, the storm itself is only half the threat. All too often, shady contractors seek to take advantage of distressed homeowners in the aftermath of a storm.

That’s why homeowners should be alert if a contractor asks you to sign over your insurance benefits while he “saves you the trouble” of dealing directly with your insurance company.

This ploy gives an unscrupulous repair person a wide-open path to inflate your bill and reap huge profits from the insurance claim, while sending everyone’s insurance premiums through the roof.

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Protect yourself from home repair insurance fraud by keeping an eye out for these red-flag warning signs common among sketchy restoration contractors:

(1) Questionable contractors often go door-to-door, claiming they just happened to be in the area and have leftover materials that can save you a bundle. Most likely, they’re not affiliated with a recognized trade association and can’t provide you with a license or insurance information – so be vigilant in checking their credentials;

(2) Many scheming contractors demand that you pay in full before they make any repairs, and they avoid providing references for similar work they’ve done in your area;

(3) Unethical operators may claim to offer large discounts, but then won’t tell you upfront how much the total job will cost.

If you suspect fraud, notify your home insurance carrier immediately and report the incident to the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud at 1-800-378-0445.

When you do suffer storm damage, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your property from further harm. Make reasonable and necessary repairs, and be sure to keep track of all receipts and expenses related to temporary repairs that may qualify for reimbursement.

Make a list of your damaged personal property, and if possible include the manufacturer, brand name, place, and date of purchase. Taking photos and videos of your property prior to any damage is a great way to document your belongings. Keep any damaged property in a secure location so a claims adjuster can examine it all to fully estimate your loss.

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No matter how much we prepare, Floridians can’t prevent natural forces like hurricanes and tropical storms from affecting our state. But by paying attention to the common traps set by fraudulent contractors, homeowners can avoid falling victim to the equally devastating phenomenon of home insurance fraud.

As Tropical Storm Colin so vividly demonstrated, it’s challenging enough to contend with the aftermath of a natural disaster. Floridians certainly don’t need to let the man-made variety make things even worse.