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2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Be Aware of Contractor Fraud

The 2024 Atlantic Hurricane season is upon us and lasts from June 1st to November 30th. New Jersey's tropical storm activity (as well as other northeastern coastal states) has historically been between August and late October. Many of us will never forget Irene in 2011, Sandy in 2012, and even Ida in 2021. Not to mention, it appears we’ve seen an uptick in tornadic activity in recent years. These, among other catastrophic weather events, leave homeowners scrambling to rebuild, which opens the door for fraudulent contractors looking to capitalize on homeowners’ grief, vulnerability, and urgency to get their homes, and lives, back together, by taking on work they do not intend to complete, incomplete/shoddy workmanship, etc.

 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) stated that, “Last year was a historic year for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the U.S. with 28 separate events costing at least $1 billion and totaling more than $93 billion in catastrophe losses. Upwards of 10 percent or $9.3 billion is lost to post-disaster fraud, which not only impacts individuals, but also impacts insurance premiums throughout the industry.”

 

Here is the NICB’s list of tips to avoid contractor fraud:

 

  • “Be Proactive”

    • “Assess Damages: If you think you have catastrophe-related damage, reach out to your insurance company, and ask for clarification on your coverage.”

    • “Recruit a Professional: Seek out a licensed, insured, and well-reviewed contractor before any potential fraudulent contractors come knocking on your door.”

 

  • “Research and Verify Before Signing Anything”

    • “Research and Verify: Before hiring a contractor, research their credentials, reputation, and track record. Check for licenses, certifications, and reviews from previous clients. Verify their insurance coverage and inquire about any past complaints or legal issues.”

    • “Get Multiple Quotes: Obtain bids from multiple contractors for comparison. Be wary of significantly low bids, as they may indicate substandard work or hidden costs. Aim for a balance between affordability and quality.”

    • “Beware of Red Flags: Be alert to red flags such as high-pressure sales tactics, vague or evasive answers, or reluctance to provide written estimates or contracts. Trust your instincts and proceed with caution if something seems off.”

 

  • “Stay Involved and Take Account”

    • “Written Contracts: Always insist on a written contract detailing the scope of work, materials, timeline, and a payment schedule that does not include large upfront payments. Review the contract carefully, ensuring that all terms and conditions are clearly outlined and agreed upon by both parties.”

    • “Stay Involved: Stay actively involved in the project by regularly communicating with the contractor and monitoring progress, while keeping records of all work communications.”

    • “Seek Legal Advice if Necessary: If you suspect contractor fraud or encounter significant problems during the project, seek legal advice promptly. A legal professional can help you understand your rights, explore options for resolution, and take appropriate action to protect your interests.”

 

  • “Report Fraud”

    • “Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422).”


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