Avoiding Contractor Fraud

image courtesy of FOX Carolina

image courtesy of FOX Carolina

The average homeowner is likely to know little when it comes to the costs of materials and labor put into home repairs. Unfortunately, this makes them ripe targets for disreputable contractors who will lie about the extent of a problem in order to make money off overpriced repairs. Often, the need for such repair is heavily exaggerated, if not completely fabricated. It is important that you act shrewdly when dealing with contractors so you don’t end up paying for repairs you don’t need.

It is often said that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Nowhere is this advice more valuable than in dealing with contractor fraud. Look out for:
• Contractors that contact you looking for work
• Unsolicited, free home inspections that turn up problems you were previously unaware of or discount rates that are only being offered that day
• Pushiness on behalf of the contractor that you commit to repairs immediately
• Request for money in advance for supplies or equipment

According to the National Storm Damage Center here are the most common indicators that an individual or company may be running a scam-
-Not properly licensed
-No insurance or under-insured
-No local office (beware of P.O. boxes and hotel addresses)
-Won’t provide local references
-Demands up-front cash or deposit
-Shows up on convicted criminals and/or sex offenders list

Insurance Fraud
One especially dangerous type of contractor fraud involves using a homeowner’s insurance to pay for unnecessary repairs. A contractor will begin the process by finding damages and then offer the homeowner a way to get them fixed for little or no cost. The contractor will then cause additional damage before informing the homeowners to file a claim with their insurance carrier. Often, the contractor will assert that the damage was caused by an accidental or weather-related incident.
Homeowners are often convinced by contractors that this is an acceptable use of their insurance policy, when in fact it is a form of insurance fraud. Insurance companies are on the lookout for such behavior and will prosecute when fraudulent claims are discovered. Unfortunately, the homeowner is often the party that is found responsible, not the contractor who caused the damage. Contractors involved in such scams are careful not to do anything illegal on paper, which helps them deny involvement and divert blame toward the homeowner.
Don’t hesitate to contact AssureSouth prior to beginning work on a repair project if a contractor suggests using your insurance policy as payment. We can review your situation and advise you accordingly.

You may want to check out this website for information on finding a contractor, what to do before and after a storm as well as how to avoid contractor scams- http://stormdamagecenter.org

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