Right now, insurance company representatives are in the field staffing catastrophe centers and working non-stop to assist victims in rebuilding their lives, their homes and their businesses. As hard as these professionals work to quickly handle the thousands of claims that these kinds of events generate, there are always some victims who experience additional pain—not from the fires, but from greedy scam artists and unscrupulous contractors.
After a natural disaster salespeople go door to door in damaged neighborhoods, offering cleanup or repair services. While many of these are honest and reputable, others are not. The dishonest ones may pocket the payment without completing the job or use inferior materials and perform shoddy work not up to code.
NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:
Get more than one estimate
Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed
Demand references and check them out
Ask to see the contractor’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number
Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later
Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code
Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier
Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them
Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language
Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company
You can download our disaster fraud brochure and other fraud awareness materials here.
If you believe you have been approached by an unscrupulous contractor or adjuster, or have been encouraged to fabricate an insurance claim, contact your insurance company or call the NICB toll-free at 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422). You may also text keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or report it online by visiting our Web site at www.nicb.org.
In this edition of Fraud Files we take a look at how the city of Detroit has been plagued by arson fires featuring an in-depth print series on the seriousness of the issue. The series touched on many aspects of the arson problem including arson-for-profit rings. Roger Morris has more on the issue in the video below.
On Monday co-defendant Kirk Bills was sentenced to 4 to 10 years for his involvement in the case. Clark County District Court Judge David Barker said Bills acted “hand in hand” with former shop owner Gloria Lee.
“You’re the one who chose to light the match,” the judge told Bills. “You couldn’t have possibly not known those were living creatures in these cages.”
The incident sparked intense interest and protests from animal rights advocates after Lee was arrested in Las Vegas shortly after the fire. The animals became the focus of an ownership battle before they were raffled in March to raise money for local animal shelters.
The pet shop, Prince and Princess, sprinkler system was able to douse the flames and saved the lives of the 25 puppies and two adult dogs inside the store.
During ther trial, Lee revealed that she is pregnant, but the news did not put off the lengthy sentence in the case. Prosecutor Shanon Clowers said the pregnancy announcement was simply an attempt at garnering a “get out of jail free card.”
Lee pleaded guilty in October to arson, insurance fraud and attempted animal cruelty charges in a plea deal that had 28 other charges against her dismissed.