Agents instrumental in helping clients avoid post-storm scams

Consumer groups, law enforcement, and the insurance industry all recommend consumers to be on their guard for fly-by-night contractors who run post-disaster rebuilding scams

Insurance News

By Lyle Adriano

Following the recent string of severe storms over Texas, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)—together with law enforcement agencies, the Texas Department of Insurance, and various insurance companies—warned homeowners to avoid any unsolicited repair work from contractors.

Many out-of state contractors have already begun offering their services to those homeowners in storm-ravaged parts of the state.

"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,” said NICB President and CEO Joseph Wehrle.

Typically, contractors will approach homeowners door-to-door after a particularly strong storm has passed, offering to clean up or repair properties for a price. Although most of these contractors are reputable, there are those who seek to swindle customers of their money, taking advantage of the crisis.

Dishonest contractors could either demand payment upfront for a supposed repair job in the near future, only to never show up, or could use inferior materials in order to cut down on costs and pocket more profit.

Unlike other states, Texas does not require its roofing contractors to possess licenses for their work or for soliciting.

The NICB generally recommends customers to turn down any and all unsolicited repair work, and instead immediately contact their insurance companies. Once a customer’s home has been properly audited, a trustworthy contractor can then be tapped to carry out proper repairs.

Other suggestions from the NICB for homeowners include:
  • Get more than one estimate from various other contractors
  • Put all information—the costs, total work to be done, payment schedules, guarantees, etc.—into paper
  • Always ask a contractor for references
  • Carefully review the contract before signing; blank spaces could be used to slip in consumer-unfriendly terms

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