If you have been scammed by a fraudulent contractor, besides lost money, you face the possibility of insurance claim denial or accusations of insurance fraud. In order to take charge of your situation, it is important that you fully understand your rights and responsibilities. Recognize that you may be emotionally distressed, so have a trusted friend or family member assist you.
If your insurance policy has been lost or destroyed or if you are confused about the policy benefits or exclusions, contact your insurance company to find out what coverages you have and request a copy of the policy.
Beware of contractors who claim to be insurance claim specialists Be sure you have thoroughly checked out your contractor before you permit them to deal directly with your insurance company and seek approval of repairs for you. Unscrupulous businesses have tricked consumers into signing a work estimate without reading the fine print which commits you to automatically contract with their business if your insurance claim is approved.
Document the damage to your property and possessions thoroughly. Take pictures or video if possible. Go from room to room and create a detailed account of your belongings, if it is safe to do so. It is possible that people will not be allowed near their property until the area has been secured by emergency responders and local authorities. Keep all your receipts spent on supplies and living expenses for future reimbursement.
Make any temporary repairs to limit further damage to your home or business. You may be liable for damage that occurs after a storm has passed, so make temporary repairs, such as boarding up broken windows or throwing a tarp over a leaky roof. Beware of contractors who may try to offer these services for exorbitant fees. Be sure to get quotes in writing in advance or seek out volunteer groups in your area that may be offering assistance for free.
Do not make any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company. Make sure you understand how your insurance company will reimburse your repair costs. Your insurer might not fully reimburse you for repairs made without their authorization.
Do not hand over an insurance check to a contractor for repairs prior to work being started. Never give more than one-third of the job price up front and make sure that your insurance company has approved all repairs before your final payment is given to the contractor.
You may qualify for additional assistance when insurance doesn’t cover all of your losses. Check with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at fema.gov for more information.