Preparing for and protecting your loved ones and property from the wrath of a hurricane is stressful time in anyone’s life. Having to worry about getting financially scammed while doing your best to recover shouldn’t be a worry you have to focus on, but it is. Hurricane season not only brings high tides, howling winds, torrential rain and sometimes tidal waves, it also attracts scam-artists that want to help rid you of the few assets you have left.
Scammers are always scheming for fast money. A most attractive group for these criminals to leach onto are those recovering from a terrible storm or natural disaster. They can smell the need for aid from miles away and will come running.
To help you identify the scammers from the trustworthy, below are contractor schemes that are commonplace post-hurricane.
The pay upfront scheme
This first scheme is common after any storm or natural disaster that causes mass property damage. Many contractors, some legal and some not, will try to take advantage of your need for repairs and ask you to pay a large percentage of the cost upfront to cover the cost of the necessary equipment and supplies. Most of these so-called contractors will dart with your money or do such poor work that you’ll need to have it re-done.
In good economies, contractors asking for 50% down is common, but it a recovery situation, it’s a different story. A good rule to live by if you’re approached, is to pay no more than $1,000 or 10% of the total job cost.
The inflated costs scheme
To understand this tactic, you have to understand the power of an Assignment of Benefits contract (AOB.) An AOB is a contract that allows a third-party (the scam-artist contractor) the power to act on your behalf with the insurance company. This could simplify your recovery efforts if it’s someone you have full faith in, but if it’s someone you don’t know or trust, this is a slippery path to inflated repair costs. This is because an AOB provides the scammer with the knowledge of how much your insurance company is willing to pay for certain repairs.
In 2016, claims associated with an AOB had a much higher severity rate.
What if I get scammed?
If you do fall prey to one of these scams or becoming the victim of unlawful insurance practices, a law firm that specializes in protecting families from these scams can be beneficial to getting you back on your feet.