In 2020 alone, more than 23 130 reports of severe weather conditions related to tornadoes, wind or hail were recorded. Although most see the consequences of a storm as a tragedy, storm hunters see it as an opportunity. Many will travel to places affected by severe weather and promise to repair the house at an inflated cost – and then do little (if any) repair.
With lots of unsuspecting victims waiting to be inspected at their home soon after the storm, how can you distinguish between storm crooks and legal inspectors? Identify scammers and protect yourself from becoming a victim of artist scam.
Tip #1 – Be aware of storm scammers
Storm scammers often travel to the affected neighbourhoods and look for householders who have experienced damage.
Watch out for storm scammers impersonating your insurance company, requesting personal information over the phone. Only provide personal information if you answered the phone and made a call.
Storm scammers may say they were sent by an insurance company, but the insurance company will notify you before a contractor or other employee is sent.
Other common scams include work and materials, price gouging and advance payment for work that has never been completed.
Tip #2 – Protect your property from Storm Scams
Don’t settle for the first offer, especially if a contractor contacts you.Make temporary repairs to protect your home from further damage and keep receipts. Get at least two written estimates to make sure you are not a victim of price gouging and compare them carefully. Remember to ask if there is a charge for the estimate – reputable contractors will give you the estimate for free.
Tip #3 – Claim storm damage
Contact your insurance agent or claims centre as soon as possible.
If a storm or disaster has been significant, claims regulator teams can be mobilized to speed up the process.
Your claims regulator will determine the extent of the damage, which can help determine whether the contractor’s estimate is justified.
Your claims regulator may be able to provide a contractor’s recommendation.
Tip #4 – Does your test
Checking a contractor’s past can help save time, money and heart pain.
Avoid stormtroopers by checking the contractor’s history through your local Better Business Bureau, Home Builders Association or insurance claims regulator.
A reputable contractor will be licensed and tied up, and will be able to provide local business permits and certifications for property, liability, and employee compensation insurance.
If the contractor claims they are from the government, check their ID. Write down the information they provide and verify it.
Check online reviews on independent websites. If they claim they are approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), think twice. (FEMA does not support contractors.)
Tip #5 – Get it in writing
Get contract details in writing, not just a cost estimate.
This includes scope of work, schedule, guarantees and payment schedule.
If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification.
Remember to mark by blank lines.
Keep a copy for yourself and refer to it as you progress.
Tip #6 – Save full payment for repairing storm damage
Renowned contractors will not ask for full payment before the work is completed.
A small initial deposit is reasonable.
Specify who will pay the contractor for the work: You or your insurance company. If you pay the contractor, write down receipts for reimbursement by the insurance company.
Tip #7 – Check your insurance
While home insurance and car insurance policies usually cover storm damage, it is worth reviewing your insurance. Be proactive before heavy blows to the weather.
Schedule SuperCheck® with your local Farm Bureau agent before the storm season.
Find out about the losses your particular policy covers.