Hurricane Matthew Could Bring a Storm of Fraudsters

As Hurricane Matthew begins to approach Florida and the southeastern part of the United States damage and significant flooding is expected. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is warning residents of these areas to be on alert for contractor scams after the storm passes.

Becoming a victim of a natural disaster may be impossible to avoid. You can, however, avoid being victimized by dishonest contractors often found lurking in their wake.

After a natural disaster, salespeople go door to door in damaged neighborhoods, offering cleanup or repair services. While many of these businesses 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.

The NICB recommends these tips before you act on a contractor’s offer for services.

  • 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.
  • Require references, and check them out.
  • Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
  • Never pay in full.

For more tips you can download our disaster fraud brochure here.

Focusing on Fraud in South Carolina

Organized fraud rings are active in South Carolina, taking advantage of the state’s lack of resources to investigate and prosecute insurance fraud.That was the message that some 150 law enforcement personnel, insurance industry representatives and elected officials heard at the annual insurance fraud summit in Greenville this week.

The summit, organized by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the South Carolina Insurance News Service (SCINS), focused on the need for additional resources and legislative remedies to fight the growing insurance crime problem in the state. To learn more, watch this video.

Citing NICB statistics that show South Carolina ranked seventh in the nation in suspected staged accidents, Attorney General Alan Wilson urged the passage of HB 4339 to help stem the problem.

“Fraud and crime, like water, follow the path of least resistance,” said Wilson. ”I believe it is incumbent on us this year as we move forward to try to direct some more resources and legislation toward combatting insurance fraud.”

South Carolina currently allocates $200,000 a year in funds for investigation and prosecution of insurance fraud, which is the lowest of all 50 states.

NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle told the audience that in addition to staged accidents, other fraud issues that are plaguing the state include suspect medical clinics and pill mills, as well as windshield glass repair fraud.

“The proceeds that organized criminal rings haul in from insurance fraud often go to fund other criminal activities,” said Wehrle. “As we’ve seen in other states where we’ve held these summits in recent years, a few changes in the law and increased support for investigation and prosecution of these crimes sends a message to the criminals that this is no longer a place to do business.”

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or submitting a form on our website. Or, download the NICB Fraud Tips app on your iPhone or Android device.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $395 billion in insurance premiums in 2014, or more than 78 percent of the nation’s property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 93 percent ($176 billion) of the nation’s personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.