How to Avoid Contractor Fraud
Don’t Get Ripped Off after a Disaster
From wildfires in California to hurricanes in Florida and Texas, disasters rattle the American landscape each year. In addition to causing billions in damage, natural disasters may subject homeowners to opportunists hoping to take advantage of confusing and turbulent times.
Contractor fraud is rampant following a natural catastrophe. Though some states have passed laws aimed to protect homeowners from contractor fraud, such as prohibiting rebates and allowing for contract termination, the fact remains that homeowners must be vigilant to avoid potential scams.
What Contractor Fraud Looks Like
Not every professional who goes door-to-door offering to clean up or make repairs after a catastrophe is out to scam you. However, this is a common tactic by folks who might try to defraud victims after a major, community-wide disaster.
Fraudulent service providers may try to:
- Get upfront payment for a job and never show up for it.
- Begin a job but not complete it.
- Use subpar materials or deliver shoddy work to pocket more profit.
That’s why it’s so important to contact your insurance company before you begin any construction or repair work on your home following a disaster. They can guide you on next steps and make sure you work with trusted contractors.
Tips to Avoid Post-Disaster Contractor Fraud
In addition to calling your insurance company before you hire a contractor, as a general rule, if you didn’t request the work, don’t accept it.
These pointers can help you find a reputable contractor when you are ready to get repairs on your home underway.
- Get more than one estimate so you can compare rates and timelines.
- Get all promised work in writing, including all repairs, cost, timeline, payment schedules, and work warranties.
- Ask for references, read reviews of the contractor’s work, and look up their business on the Better Business Bureau or Angie’s List.
- Check the contractor’s driver’s license and write down their license number.
- Ask for the contractor’s insurance certificate and licensing.
- Review all documents sent from the contractor to your insurance provider.
- Sign an incomplete contract or a work order with blanks.
- Pay a contractor in full before work is finished.
- Sign a completion certificate before the work is complete and inspected for code compliance.
- Hire a contractor because they pressured you.
- Let a contractor decide what your policy covers.
- Let a contractor dissuade you from talking to your insurer.
How to Report Insurance Fraud
If you think you’ve been solicited by an unlicensed contractor or adjuster or have been asked to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company immediately. You can also call the NICB hotline at 1-800-835-6422 or text your information and “FRAUD: to TIP411.
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