- Dean Smith
“Free Hurricane Damage Inspections” Signs Spark Fox 29 to Investigate
According to Fox 29, Vanguard Construction of South Jersey has been using signs claiming “Free Hurricane Damage Inspections” on the lawns of their previous customers as a marketing tool. Fox 29 took notice of the overflow of signs in the South Jersey neighborhood of Mt. Laurel, and decided to set up their own little sting operation.
Fox 29 called Vanguard Construction using the phone number posted on their signs and set up a time for a representative to come out to a Medford, NJ home, whose roof suffered no damage after Hurricane Sandy’s impact.
Before Vanguard’s appointment, Fox 29 had Steve Thomas, president of Roof Leak Detection Company, to simply inspect the roof from the lawn of the home. Thomas said, “I personally have evaluated of 20,000 roofs. There’s just not the evidence of wind damage.”
Fox 29 asked Thomas, “Do you think this roof sustained significant storm damage as a result of Sandy that came here last fall?”
Thomas replied with, “No, I do not.”
On the contrary, as Kyle Hill and Steve Moffet, project managers from Vanguard, showed up to inspect the roof, Moffett concluded, “This is wind damage,” without knowing they were secretly recording him.
Fox 29 prodded further, asking, “From the hurricane?” Vanguard’s project managers answered, “Yes.”
The best part is that Hill and Moffett proceeded to instruct Fox 29′s undercover producer how to file the seemingly fraudulent claim.
Moffett said, “They are going to ask you the date of loss, you’re going to say 10/29. That’s the date of Sandy, so it’s going to be wind damage. They’re going to say, ‘what kind of damage?’ You’re going to say wind damage.”
So, Steve Thomas of Roof Leak Detection Company said there was no evident wind damage and could have some minor repairs to fix some protruding nails. But Vangaurd’s inspectors said there was wind damage, the insurance company would pay for a whole new roof, and after being asked if something like this would be illegal, they replied, “No.”
When Fox 29 revealed who they really were when offering to send a copy of the investigation to Vanguard, management became defensive at first, and then tried to ease over the situation; tiptoe lightly, if you will.
Jake Thalwitzer, Vanguard’s office manager, wouldn’t cooperate on camera, but emailed this statement, saying that his sales reps are trained in the “basic aspect of the roofing business and always counseled to communicate responsibly and professionally.” But…”Vanguard’s high standards are occasionally unknowingly compromised,” and…”it is the insurance company adjuster which decides whether a roof damaged by storm can be replaced under terms of the policy after the insurance company adjuster inspects the roof.”
After Fox 29 revealed themselves to Kyle Hill and Steve Moffet, their story quickly changed. Hill said, “We never got on the roof.” And Moffett said, “We didn’t do the inspection yet. I told him what I think…I think that if we get on the roof and he has damage for the hurricane or from wind damage, then it is a wind damage situation. He can put in a claim and get approved for wind damage.”
Needless to say, Hurricane Sandy is still causing problems in the claims world, and Vanguard is under investigation by the New Jersey Banking and Insurance Commissioner’s Bureau of Fraud Deterrence.