After the Blizzard – Beware of Insurance Fraud

In this special edition of Fraud Files we warn residents of potential scams after the east coast blizzard that hit last weekend.

One such scheme is to pocket the payment and never show up for the job, or never complete a job that was started.  Another scheme is to use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code in order to pocket more profit.

Almost all of these scams begin with an unsolicited visit from a contractor.  That is why we say, “If you didn’t request it, reject it.”  If you have damage from a storm, contact your insurance company first.  Your insurance company will honor its policy and will cover you for losses so there is no need to speak with a contractor who solicits your repair work—especially when you did not request it.

Top Insurance Fraud Stories for April 17, 2015

Here are the top fraud stories in the news today:

* Digital Car Thieves on the Rise (NICB Blog)

* Two Brooklyn landlords arrested for fraud (PIX 11)

* Dentist charged with fraud (MIX 97FM)

* 3 Subcontractors of True Religion Brand Jeans Arrested on $78M Work Comp (KCAL 9)

*How Canadian insurance companies are cracking down on fake claims (Financial Post)

 

Stormy Weather: Spring 2014 Hits Historic Mark

Spring has officially arrived. For those of us in the Midwest and Northeastern corridor who have endured a very long, cold, and snowy winter, spring usually signals the beginning of the end to shovels, coats, boots, and snow blowers. But for some sections of the U.S., spring signals the beginning of tornado season, a time when devastating storms can tragically claim lives and destroy everything in their paths within seconds.

According to a recent article published by the Weather Channel, Spring 2014 is turning out to be a record breaker. For what, you might ask? Number of rainy days? Number of above average temperatures? No. It’s neither of those. Spring 2014 is the longest fatality-free start in 99 years according to information obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center which began a database in 1950 to maintain tornado records. This spring marks the first calendar year within the era of tracking of not having any tornado fatalities this late into the season. That is definitely good news.

StormyWeatherWhile we can only hope that this spring continues to be free of the catastrophic tornadoes that we have seen in years past, preparation is vital for survival. Ready.gov offers the below tips for how to prepare before a tornado hits:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

After a storm, disaster victims also need to be on the lookout for dishonest and unscrupulous contractors. While it may seem unimaginable that anyone would try to take advantage of victims during such a vulnerable time, it can and does happen. The NICB offers the following tips to help avert being victimized twice.

  • Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
  • Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
  • Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
  • Require references, and check them out.
  • Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license; write it down. Also, take down his or her license plate number.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is completed.
  • A catastrophe greatly magnifies the opportunity for fraud and abuse. Don’t be tempted to conspire in a fraudulent insurance claim. Insurance fraud is a felony.
  • Insurance coverage may be rendered void if there is misrepresentation by an insured.

For more information on preparing for tornadoes and other disasters, visit Ready.gov and DisasterSafety.org. For more information on how to avoid being victimized by disaster fraud and other types of fraudulent schemes, visit www.nicb.org. To report fraud of suspicious activities, call 1-800-TEL-NICB (835-6422).

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NICB’s Legislative Efforts for Licensing and Regulating Roofing Contractors

NICB’s legislative advocacy team leads the property/casualty industry’s anti-fraud and vehicle theft legislative and regulatory agenda. Our legislative efforts help bring about tangible solutions to protect the American public from potential scams and unfair practices. An example of this is seen in our current efforts in the licensing and regulation of roofing contractors.

The NICB supports legislation that would license and regulate roofing contractors in the state of Texas.  This year, two bills have been introduced –HB 888 and SB 311.  If passed, Texas would establish a roofing contractors’ advisory board under the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation.  The new law would establish license requirements; require criminal history background checks; and a public accessible license holder database.  More importantly, the law would prohibit rebating of any applicable insurance deductible and prohibit a roofing contractor from acting as a public insurance adjuster.        

Currently under Texas law, there is no authorized agency to assure consumer protections from those roofing contractors who receive pay for services never rendered, or deliberately cause damage to a structure.

NICB proposed the following recommendations:

  1. Require basic registration and licensing of roofing contractors in the state of Texas. 
  2. Require a written and signed contract between property owner and the roofing contractor which must include: scope of work and materials, cost of work and materials, and approximate dates of services.
  3. Roofing contractors must provide contact information, including a physical address.
  4. Roofing contractors must provide identification of the contractor’s surety and liability coverage insurer and their contact information.
  5. Roofing contractors must establish and provide notice of their policy regarding cancellation of a contract and refunding of any deposit.
  6. Roofing contractors must allow the property owner to rescind the contract and obtain a full refund within 72 hours of entering the contract.
  7. Roofing contractors cannot pay, waive, or rebate the property owner’s insurance deductible.
  8. Roofing contractors must hold in trust any payment until the contractor has delivered roofing materials to the jobsite or has performed a majority of the roofing work. 

NICB feels a roofing contractor should not act directly or indirectly as a public adjuster or act on the behalf of an insured to negotiate or affect the settlement of an insurance claim.  However, this does not mean that a roofing contractor should not discuss the scope of work with an insurer or insured.
 
While the significance of what happens in the state of Texas may not be readily apparent to those living in other states, we consider the whole picture. We all pay the cost for insurance fraud. Change in one state opens the door to effectively bring about change in others. To date, we have been successful in getting similar legislation passed in other states.

 

Life After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy has passed, but it will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come as one of the most devastating hurricanes in
history. Reports indicate that it has claimed the lives of 71 people in the U.S. and elsewhere. That number may climb as flood waters recede and clean up begins. Millions are still without power. Countless others have been
left homeless and displaced. Although efforts are already underway in some communities to restore roadways, bridges and infrastructures that were impacted, it may be several months or longer before some areas are able to fully recover. In the meantime, FEMA is providing emergency federal aid for areas affected by the disaster, and humanitarian agencies such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army are also supporting Disaster Relief efforts.

Many of us across the nation and around the world have probably seen photos and videos of the trail of damage that Sandy left in its path up the Caribbean and along the Northeast corridor of the U.S. And while much attention and focus have been given to the strength of the storm, the true story of this disaster will be the strength and resilience of the people who will begin to rebuild their lives in the days ahead.

While no one can prevent a storm of this nature from occurring, we can help to protect
the public from unscrupulous scam artists who will follow in its wake. It may be unfathomable to think that someone would take advantage of others under such tragic circumstances, but sadly it can occur.

Losing your home, vehicle and other belongings in a hurricane, flood, earthquake, or tornado can be devastating. Although these losses may pose significant emotional distress and financial hardships for you, they present opportunities for dishonest contractors and others to take advantage for financial gain.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by Hurricane Sandy or any other disaster, don’t be victimized twice. Learn how to protect yourself by following these helpful tips from the NICB.