After Storms, Watch Out for ‘Storm Chaser’ Scammers

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March 27, 2023

After property suffers storm damage, homeowners need to be careful as “storm chasers”  and fake charities swoop in.

In a scene that’s becoming increasingly common after a catastrophe, unscrupulous “storm chasers” are targeting people whose homes and premises have been damaged after a calamity, be that a snowstorm, tornado or a storm system, such as those that ravaged the West Coast in early 2023.

Unfortunately, bad actors target homeowners when they are at their most vulnerable, and you should be wary of anyone who shows up at your door immediately after a storm. If someone pitches up offering to step in and handle repairs and your insurance, you should not take them up on their offer.

Call Us First

After a storm, you should immediately call your home insurance company to file your claim and arrange for repairs. Or if you find your own contractor, make sure to do your research and verify credentials before signing any contracts or agreeing to any services.

The worst you can do is to agree to repairs without first consulting your home insurance company, as these scammers will often try to get you to pay for some of the work up-front and tell you they’ll cover your insurance deductible. Don’t believe them.

Your home insurance company can refer you to contractors who can get the job done. Using a referred contractor can give you peace of mind, as your home insurance company can screen the contractor for you.

When you choose a referred contractor, it can help protect you from scams, and you are always free to get second opinions and negotiate with your adjuster. If you choose to get your own contractor, you should look for some basic things to help decide whether they are reputable and can do the job.

Dos and Don’ts

To help avoid getting duped and fleeced, you can follow this advice from the Texas Department of Insurance:
  • Steer clear of any contractor who asks for full payment up-front, only accepts payment in cash or refuses to provide you with a written contract.
  • Avoid door-to-door offers for home repair work. Instead, ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
  • Be skeptical of any contractor that offers to pay your insurance deductible, or offers other no-cost incentives, as these can be signs of a scam. Call your home insurance company before agreeing to any storm-related repairs or inspections.
  • Ask contractors for references and call each one.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.
  • In most states, contractors, electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning repair people must be licensed. Check their license.
  • Legitimate contractors should be able to provide a business license, proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance, written manufacturer warranties, and written labor warranties.
Finally, be aware of anyone claiming to be from a charitable organization and offering to help following a storm, as there are fake operators at large here, too. Don’t take what they say at face value and be sure to carefully check out their credentials before accepting any offer of assistance.

This information is provided for general informational purposes only. Meemic Insurance Company does not assume any liability in connection with providing this information.
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