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How to Avoid Post-Disaster Scams

Homeowners must exercise caution after their homes are destroyed by fires, tornadoes or other disasters. There are many dishonest scam artists and service providers who are ready to take advantage of distressed homeowners. They know that individuals who have just experienced such a great loss due to disaster are in a panicked state of mind. Since homeowners in such situations aren’t thinking clearly, scam artists are able to get the money they want. In order to avoid such a fiasco, simply avoid making rash decisions by talking to an agent immediately following a disaster to get a list of reliable service providers. When disaster strikes, this will make it easier to know who to turn to. In addition to obtaining a list from an agent, consider the following tips for hiring service providers.

Builders & Roofers
Avoid rushing when hiring a builder or roofer. It’s better to obtain business cards and written estimates from several service providers before making a decision. Make sure to ask for references and check them. Research the track records of the companies or individuals being considered for the job. It’s best to use professionals who have good reputations. One way to find a list of such individuals is to contact the Better Business Bureau. Individuals earn a place on this list by being honest and providing quality work. One scam that is common in building and roofing involves a service worker asking for an extremely large deposit to begin working. After starting the job, the individual or company will disappear. Never do business with anyone who asks for a large sum of money upfront.

It’s also important to beware of contractors who are pushy about spending a lot of money for temporary repairs. The purpose of temporary repairs is to provide a cheap and temporary fix. Payments for temporary repairs are covered in the total settlement from the insurance company. Homeowners who pay service providers large amounts of money for temporary repairs usually find that they don’t have enough to cover the cost of permanent repairs. A good service provider will offer reasonable rates for temporary and permanent repairs. Whether obtaining temporary or permanent work, be sure to keep receipts for services received in a safe place. Always ask an agent when in doubt about repair quotes.

Attorneys & Public Adjusters
Never make hasty decisions about hiring someone to handle an insurance claim. It’s especially important to be careful about individuals who offer their services by door-to-door soliciting following a catastrophe. Never let any company or individual use scare tactics to encourage a quick signature for immediate services. If such people surface in the aftermath of a disaster, they will likely victimize anyone who is willing to agree to their terms. These individuals usually offer quick or immediate service, which homeowners feel desperate for after a disaster. However, their efforts to make quick money usually leave victimized homeowners without enough money to pay for permanent repairs. Keep in mind that quality repairs take time to obtain after a major disaster.

Another thing to remember is that it’s best to settle a claim directly with the insurance company before considering using the services of a public adjuster or attorney. Insurance companies provide their adjuster’s services to policyholders for free. Be sure to ask an agent to help with filing a claim, and never hesitate to ask questions. Individuals who agree to work directly with the insurance company still retain the right to hire a third-party professional for help, so there is nothing to lose by working directly with the insurance company. If the claim is complicated and the services of an attorney are desired, make sure the individual selected is qualified. Ask around the community for advice about which attorneys are best. Another place to check for reliable advice about which attorneys are reliable is the county’s Bar Association. Keep in mind that attorneys ask for about 30 percent of the settlement, and public adjusters usually require 15 percent. The key idea to remember after any disaster is to contact an agent before making any decisions.