Contractor Fraud Awareness Week
May 22-26 is Contractor Fraud Awareness Week and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) are reminding Michiganders of tips to protect themselves from criminals who may try to take advantage of them following severe weather. After a severe weather incident, fraudsters claiming to be adjusters, contractors, and other service providers often go door-to-door purporting to offer services, like debris cleanup or building repairs, that will not be completed, or may be completed with poor-quality materials or shoddy workmanship. Ultimately, these scams can cost victims thousands of dollars.
“Contractor Fraud Awareness Week is an opportunity to remind Michiganders to be on the lookout for bad actors looking to make money fast in the wake of a tragedy,” said DIFS Director Anita Fox. “Contractors and other service providers should never rush you into signing a contract for repairs or ask for cash in advance. Be sure to ask for the contractor’s business card and license, and always contact your insurer before hiring someone. If you suspect fraud, immediately contact local law enforcement, your insurer, the DIFS Fraud Investigation Unit, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.”
“Catastrophic events impact millions of Americans every year, including those in Michigan, and we are especially grateful to the Department of Insurance and Financial Services for helping highlight this important issue,” said David J. Glawe, President and CEO of NICB. “From hurricanes to floods and everything in between, these events are often scary and life changing. But what makes these events even worse is what happens afterward as homeowners affected by these natural disasters are targeted by dishonest contractors. Often before the flood waters recede or rescue operations are complete, unscrupulous contractors prey upon individuals who are at their most vulnerable. Before hiring anyone, call your insurance company first. If you didn’t request it, then you should reject it.”
Common signs that a contractor or other service provider may try to take advantage of disaster victims include:
– Rushing homeowners into signing a contract for their services.
– Stating they work for “the government” or specific insurers “all the time.”
– Asking for payment in advance, in cash, or using a peer-to-peer mobile payment app.
– Refusing to provide the homeowner with their licensure information or other forms of identification.
To protect against unscrupulous contractors, before hiring anyone always:
– Get at least three written estimates for the work and compare bids.
– Check the service provider’s credentials, including licenses, references, and insurance.
– Contact your insurer before hiring a contractor to confirm your policy is up to date.
– Make sure your contract states estimated construction schedules, and prices for labor and materials.
– Get the contract in writing with no blanks on the form that could be filled in later without your knowledge.
– Remember that adjusters are paid by the insurance company and should never ask homeowners for any payment for their services that are covered by their homeowners or renter’s policy.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau can be reached at 1-800-TEL-NICB. The DIFS Fraud Investigation Unit investigates criminal and fraudulent activity related to the insurance and financial markets and works with the Attorney General and law enforcement to prosecute these crimes. Suspected insurance fraud can be reported to DIFS safely, easily and, in most cases, anonymously by calling 877-999-6442 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or online by visiting the department’s website.