SCAM ALERT: Home Repair and Insurance Fraud
While the recent tornado damage to our community has brought the best out of many of us as we support and help one another, unfortunately there are those who see this an opportunity to prey upon the vulnerable. The following information will help prevent you and loved ones from falling victim to any home repair fraud or insurance fraud, and will give guidance on what to do for those who may have already been defrauded in some manner.
FRAUD PREVENTION TIPS
- Avoid door-to-door offers for home repair work. Instead, ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
- Steer clear of any contractor who asks for full payment up-front, only accepts payment in cash, or who refuses to provide you with a written contract.
- Ask contractors for three references of customers who had projects similar to yours, and check them out.
- Get written bids from at least three contractors. Be skeptical if the bid is too low. Cheaper is not necessarily better.
- Always insist on a contract for work to be performed, with all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing. Agree on start and completion dates and have them written into the contract.
- Never pay for the entire project before the work begins. Consider paying no more than one-third of the total cost as a down payment, with remaining payments tied to completion of specified amounts of work, and the final payment not due until the job is completed.
- Be skeptical of any contractor that offers to pay your insurance deductible or offers other no-cost incentives, as these can be signs of fraud. You should always talk to your insurance company before committing to any repairs or even allowing a roofer to inspect your roof for any damage.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) to if there are any complaints against the business.
- Make sure that the tree removal has a valid arborist license by visiting the International Society of Arboriculture’s website at www.isa-arbor.com.
- Make sure that general contractors, electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning contractors are licensed by going to the Secretary of State’s website at sos.georgia.gov. Note that certain specialty occupations such as roofers, tree removal services, painters, drywall contractors and repair handymen are not required to be licensed by the state.
- If a person offers to negotiate or assist you on any insurance claim, they are acting as a public adjuster, and must be licensed. Check the status of their license -> License Lookup
- Do not be strong armed into hiring a public adjuster. You are not legally required to hire one.
- You have a right to talk to your insurer even if you hire a public adjuster.
- You have the right to rescind a contract between you and a public adjuster within 3 business day of signing.
- You have a right to have all checks issued to both you and the public adjuster.
- A public adjuster may not solicit your business in the process of a loss-causing occurrence, such as the recent storm.
If you think that you may have been the victim of home repair fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (toll-free in Georgia, outside of the metro Atlanta calling area). To report any suspected insurance fraud, you may either call the Georgia Office of Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire Criminal Investigations Division at 1-800-656-2298 or (404) 656-2070 or make the report online at oci.georgia.gov/report-suspected-fraud