A storm rolled into Northern Texas Monday night and produced a destructive hail storm. The most significant damage occurred in Wylie, Texas near Dallas. As you can see below many homes, as well as vehicles, were damaged in this incident.
Becoming a victim of a hail storm may be impossible to avoid. But you can avoid being victimized by dishonest contractors who often go door to door in damaged neighborhoods offering repair services. While many contractors are honest and reputable, others are not. Educate yourself against unscrupulous vendors. When contractors offer you their services, consult this checklist before becoming a customer.
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 completed, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
Require references, and check them out.
Ask to see the person’s driver’s license, and write it down. Also, get the vehicle’s 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.
Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier
Coming up in this edition of NICB News we head to Dallas to warn residents of a potential scam after a disaster, plus we check in at the latest cargo summit in Memphis and we’ve got the results of our latest motorcycle theft report.
The Dallas Morning News recently went out with the Texas Department of Insurance and witnessed firsthand their fight against roofing scams after the Dec 26th tornadoes hit the Dallas area.
Workers are removed from a roof in Rowlett, TX for not having a permit.
As we reported yesterday, after a disaster, contractors will often go door-to-door in neighborhoods that have sustained damage to offer clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most of these people are reputable, but many are not. The dishonest ones may execute schemes to defraud innocent victims. One common 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 that is not up to code in order to pocket more profit.
Last year the TDI received 15,000 complaints regarding insurance fraud.
The best part is that roofers are not the sharpest shingles in the box. They don’t realize as they are being interrogated by TDI police that the state insurance department has no regulatory authority over them.
Here’s a video of the disaster area as law enforcement and TDI officials were on the lookout for potential fraud.
DES PLAINES, Ill., Jan. 7, 2016 – As Texas recovers from recent storms, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is working with law enforcement agencies, the Texas Department of Insurance and insurance companies to warn victims about post-disaster rebuilding scams.
Tornado damage in Rowlett, TX
After a disaster, contractors will often go door-to-door in neighborhoods that have sustained damage to offer clean up and/or construction and repair services. Most of these people are reputable, but many are not. The dishonest ones may execute schemes to defraud innocent victims. One common 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 that is not up to code in order to pocket more profit.
Almost all of these scams are unsolicited-they begin with a visit from a contractor who seeks to help victims rebuild. That is why we say, “If you didn’t request it, reject it.” If you think you might have damage from a storm, call your insurance company first. Your insurance company will honor its policy so there is no need to rush into an agreement with a contractor who solicits your repair work-especially when you did not request it.
Unlike other states, Texas does not require a license for a roofing contractor nor is one required for solicitation. Local jurisdictions, however, may impose certain requirements before contractors can solicit work within their boundaries. One example is the City of Garland that requires anyone soliciting for the purpose of selling or offering to sell goods or services, must first retain a solicitation permit through the Garland Police Department.
NICB was on site in the disaster area this week as law enforcement and Department of Insurance officials were on the lookout for potential fraud.
“Fraud is an unfortunate reality in post-disaster environments,” said NICB President and CEO Wehrle. “As the recovery in Texas gets underway, fraudsters are already converging on the affected areas in order to scam disaster victims out of their money while promising to do repairs. The last thing victims of disaster need is to be victimized again.”
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 salesperson’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
Another potential scam arising from the storms are flood vehicle resales. Buying a flood vehicle is not illegal, but misrepresenting a flood-damaged vehicle as one that is not could be a crime exposing the seller to potential criminal charges. More importantly, unknowingly buying a flood-damaged vehicle may put you and your family in physical and financial danger. A vehicle’s electronic systems are often destroyed from prolonged exposure to water rendering many of its safety features inoperable.
In these situations, efforts to recover your money from the seller are seldom successful since these scam artists rarely use legitimate identifying and contact information. In many cases, buyers are left with a useless vehicle and a loan that they still must repay.
For free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies who collectively provide 88 percent of the auto insurance in force today, access NICB’s VINCheck.
· For a free brochure with tips to avoid post-disaster fraud, click here.
· For useful checklists, including how to spot flood and salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, click here.
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.
The El Paso Police Department’s Auto Theft Task Force, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Texas Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security Investigations and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, conducted “Operation Paint Job.” The operation sting looked into body shops suspected of committing insurance fraud.
Ten employees have been arrested on suspicion of insurance fraud. The 22-month investigation revealed employees at some body shops were intentionally damaging vehicles to file insurance claims. In some instances accidents were staged.
DES PLAINES, Ill. – The recent flooding in Texas means the end of the road for an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 insured vehicles that suffered water damage.
Copart facility in Houston, TX
That’s the current estimate from Copart, a company that works on behalf of insurers to handle the vehicles damaged in catastrophes. About 2,500 cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs and other vehicles have already been towed to one of Copart’s locations, a 200-acre processing facility in Houston.
After a disaster, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) works with its member companies, law enforcement and companies like Copart to identify the vehicles that have had an insurance claim filed and to process them for sale. All of the cars will be retitled with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the new title will indicate the fact that the vehicle has been flood damaged. Most of the vehicles are sold to parts companies who will dismantle them and re-sell usable parts that were not damaged by the flooding.
To see a video about the processing of flooded vehicles, click here.
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is also entered into the NICB’s VINCheck℠ and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) database.
Interior of a flooded Porsche
NICB’s VINCheck allows car buyers to see whether a vehicle has ever been declared as “salvage” or a total loss by an NICB member that participates in the program. Insurers representing about 88 percent of the personal auto insurance market provide their salvage data to the program. It also alerts users if a vehicle has been stolen and is still unrecovered. VINCheck is a free public service available here.
Keeping damaged cars out of the hands of unsuspecting buyers is a major focus of the industry. Unfortunately, some of the flooded vehicles may be purchased at bargain prices, cleaned up, and then taken out of state where the VIN is switched and the car is retitled with no indication it has been damaged.
NICB warns that buyers be particularly careful in the weeks and months after a major catastrophe. Vehicles that were not insured may be cleaned up and put up for sale by the owner or an unscrupulous dealer with no disclosure of the flood damage.
Buyers should have a vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic or repair facility before handing over any cash.
* For a free brochure with tips to avoid post-disaster fraud, click here.
* For useful checklists, including how to spot flood and salvage vehicle scams and post-disaster contractor repair schemes, click here.
* For free consumer access to the vehicle salvage records of participating NICB member insurance companies who collectively provide 88 percent of the auto insurance in force today, access NICB’s VINCheck℠.
NICB Agent Don Betts inspects a flooded vehicle in Houston