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Look Out for Con Artists if You Have Property Loss
Watching your house go up in flames or seeing your basement flood or your roof damaged by storms can leave you emotionally and psychologically reeling. Dishonest contractors know this, and they are ready to prey on you when you are at your most vulnerable.
These con artists often listen to the police scanner, and they can show up literally right behind emergency personnel. Or they target an area that has experienced storm damage, for example, knocking on doors and blanketing the homes with flyers. They might say they are independent insurance adjusters who can get you more money than an adjuster for your insurer would allow you. Or they might claim to be roofing or other types of contractors offering to fix your damage for less. They might even tell you they can get your insurance company to pay for damage you did not actually experience, as long as you pay them.
Of course you know that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. But these scam artists hope that you are not thinking clearly in the wake of a major property loss.
We urge you to call us when you have a loss, and we can help you decide what steps to take. During business hours, call 847-572-0800; after hours, call 847-772-9897. We choose the carriers we work with in part because they offer exceptional service, and we can help you get in touch with the right people and stay in touch until your claim is settled.
We also suggest that you prepare for a loss before it happens. Put our phone numbers into your cell phone. Also put in the numbers of some companies that are experienced in disaster cleanup; we can give you the names of companies that our carriers work with, or you can ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has addressed the issue of insurance scams, offering the following steps you can take to protect yourself from fraud:
We would be happy to talk with you about these or any other insurance concerns. Please contact us at 847-572-0800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Beware of people who go door-to-door after a storm or other disaster. Many scam artists move from disaster area to disaster area, while most reputable contractors have an established local location.
- Always check out a contractor before you sign anything or hand over any money. In Illinois, you can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline to check out a company; the phone numbers are 800-386-5438 (Chicago), 800-243-0618 (Springfield) or 800-243-0607 (Carbondale). You also can call the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau, ask for referrals or otherwise vet the company.
- Ask to see any required permits or licenses. In Illinois, for example, insurance adjusters must be licensed by the state Department of Insurance, and roofing contractors must be licensed by the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
- Get multiple estimates, in writing, and always check references. The estimates should spell out clearly what the company will do as well as the cost and time frame.
- Never make a final payment until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
- If you think you have been approached by a fraudulent contractor or adjuster, contact the police. In Illinois, you also can call the Consumer Fraud Hotline at the numbers above.