(COLUMBUS) — The Ohio Department of Insurance is warning residents affected by Thursday’s storms about unscrupulous contractors that may try to defraud residents out of money.
“Fly-by-night contractors come out after storms like the ones we had on Saturday and Sunday, preying on those desperate to get their homes repaired,” said the Ohio Department of Insurance. “The Department expects nothing short of superior professionalism by those operating in the Ohio contractor industry. Anyone who chooses to misinform, mislead and deceive will be disciplined to the fullest extent.”
In the wake of damaging storms, such as a hail storm or a tornado, unscrupulous contractors tend to drift state-to-state and prey on desperate people anxious to get their property repaired and lives back in order. In one instance reported, a consumer unwittingly granted Power of Attorney to their roofing contractor. The roofer then managed to negotiate the insurance transaction and pocket the consumer’s insurance proceeds without doing the work.
The Ohio Department of Insurance offers these tips to Ohio consumers on how to avoid becoming a victim of contractor fraud:
- Contact their insurance company to verify benefits immediately after a disaster and so they can send an adjuster to assess any potential damage you may have incurred.
- Obtain a list of reputable contractors from their insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
- Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
- If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch them conduct the inspection.
- Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
- Request references from contractors and contact the references to verify work was completed timely and to satisfaction.
- Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
- Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
- Avoid signing a contract that has not been completed fully.
- Pay contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash.
- Refrain from paying a contractor in full, or signing a completion certificate, until all work has been finished.
- Do not provide the contractor with your personal information, such as your social security number.
Ohioans who feel they are a victim of contractor fraud are encouraged to contact the Department’s Fraud and Enforcement division by calling 1-800-686-1527.
The Department recently launched Take Action: Protect Yourself From Fraud, a new initiative that educates consumers about fraudulent practices in the areas of insurance and investment fraud. Ohioans can visit www.takeaction.ohio.gov to read or order the Take Action Consumer Guide, and to stay informed on the latest fraud news and alerts.
Ohio insurance consumers with questions and concerns about their insurance can call the Department’s consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526. Free information can also be obtained at www.insurance.ohio.gov.