3 Steps to Avoid Being Scammed After Disaster Strikes
Scams are everywhere. People are getting scammed through email, phone, credit card fraud and more. Unfortunately, when disaster strikes, such as a hurricane, there are many homeowners that become victims of scams as well. When hurricanes Sandy and Katrina hit, there was a lot of noise made about scams in the news and on the internet: roofing scams, insurance scams, restoration and construction scams.
How can you avoid becoming a victim of a scam after disaster?
#1. Be prepared BEFORE the disaster hits by knowing what coverage you have in your insurance policy.
Schedule it in your calendar to carefully review your homeowner’s insurance policy several times per year so that you are very clear on what is covered, what is NOT covered, and know what your deductibles are. If you happen to live in a state (like Florida) where there is actually a “season” for disasters, like hurricanes, then schedule time to review your policy. If there are areas that are confusing, then schedule a time with either your insurance broker or someone who works directly at the insurance carrier to help clarify everything for you. Once you are clear on the policy, then discuss options for changes if necessary with your broker.
Do you live in a flood zone? Have you looked into flood insurance with your insurance carrier? Did you know that there is a National Flood Insurance Program offered by the government? Don’t wait until its too late. If you do live in a flood zone, and live in a NFIP protected community, learn how you can protect yourself before the flood happens. If you don’t live in a protected flood zone, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get a flood.
#2. Do your due-diligence. Do your research.
Read reviews online. Ask contractors for email addresses or phone numbers for references for you to contact. Interview individuals from various companies and firms so that you have your list of go-to people ready to go at a moment’s notice, long before you experience a loss. Ask your friends and neighbors whom they have used in the past. And don’t base your decision on just one good review, or on one bad review, or even on one friend’s recommendation. Remember, the work you put in ahead of time can save you lots of time and money in the long run. And once you find good contractors and vendors that you trust, you will have them as your go-to folks for life.
Another thing to think about is online researching. Researching online isn’t just about going to Google and choosing the contractor who falls at the top of the page. Just because they are at the top page of Google, doesn’t mean that they are 100% honest and reliable companies. Although Google does have a new “Google guarantee” for certain service industries such as plumbers and locksmiths, which is defiantly helpful, but you shouldn’t rely on just one resource to make your decision on which contractor you will use in the event of a property loss. There are many great companies out there who have not gone through the Google guarantee process to get that green checkmark of approval. You need to find a company that you have personally talked with and have spent some time doing your research.
#3. Make a list.
Now that you’ve done your research, put together your contact list of good, reputable companies to turn to, long before the catastrophe happens. Have your number one choice and a backup choice. Remember, after a major catastrophe, you may not be the only homeowner in need of a new roof or has experienced water damage. Your number one choice may not be available. So have a back-up plan. And keep your list somewhere you can easily access it and you always know where it is.
Make sure your list includes a reputable attorney, a good roofing company, an emergency water damage/mold restoration company, an arborist, and a good construction/home repair company or handyman. And don’t forget to find plumbers, electricians and HVAC companies. Look for those who have been in business for years, have great online reviews and a history of happy customers . Those are the ones you want to do business with. When you are putting your list together for your go-to people and services, don’t forget to include the name and phone number of your insurance carrier and put your policy number on that list as well, so in the event of an emergency you have that vital information at your fingertips.
It’s important to find someone you trust that you know has YOUR best interest in mind. The State of Florida advises has a homeowner’s insurance bill of rights. In those bill of rights they advise to use licensed and insured contractors. They advise that you speak with your insurance carrier before entering into a contract for repairs to confirm your policy coverage for managed repairs.
Your insurance carrier might possibly give you options of their preferred vendors. If the company you’ve researched and have chosen to use does not fall on that list, there is no need to worry. Your insurance carrier’s preferred vendors are your only options and they do not have to be YOUR preferred vendor. Keep in mind that as long as your contractor of choice is licensed and insured, you still have the right to choose whomever you want to handle your emergency services.
Scams are everywhere. Unfortunately, when disaster strikes people are taken advantage of. Don’t let con-artists take advantage of you. Be prepared. Know your rights. Do your research and make your game plan. If you live in Florida, be sure to learn about how you can be better prepared in the event of Florida’s biggest disaster monster, Hurricanes!
HURRICANE PREP TIP:
Here is one small tip that could very well help prevent a loss during hurricane season in Florida. With hurricane season in Florida beginning in June, its always good to have an arborist come out to your home in April or May to test your trees to see if they are healthy and clear out limbs as well. Healthy trees are less likely to fall on your home during a storm than weaker, sick trees. By pruning your trees it allows for wind to blow through them, which means that there is less likelihood of them being picked up like a sail and tossed onto your roof. So make sure that you do your research on an arborist that has the educational background and years of experience in testing for healthy trees. The tree may look fantastic on the outside. But an experienced arborist will be able to test it to see if there is a likelihood of it falling with one strong gust of wind.