10 Tips to Avoiding Fraud After a Storm
By Shannon Butler
We have all seen examples of support for those affected by weather related disasters. We wish that was the case 100% of the time. But sadly, as those affected work hard to restore order to their homes or businesses, the wake of disasters is prime opportunity for scammers, and unscrupulous individuals. Butler & Associates Insurance Agency of Apple Valley has provided these tips to help you protect yourself or your business from fraudulent or predatory practices.
1. Do your homework – research the company prior to signing a contract.
The Better Business Bureau https://www.bbb.org
MN Department of Commerce, Commerce Fraud Bureau https://mn.gov/commerce/industries/cfb
Angi.com (formerly Angie’s List) https://www.angi.com
Check their Google/Bing/Yelp reviews
NextDoor/Facebook Neighborhood Groups – oftentimes, these sites are a place for neighbors to share their experience (positive or negative) with a company. it is also a place to share recommendations or referrals from neighbors.
Talk with your friends, family, neighbors or colleagues. When people have a pleasant experience with a company, they are likely to let you know, if the experience was unpleasant, even more so.
2. Examine credentials – make sure those doing any work on your home or business are properly licensed in your area, and their license is in good standing.
3. Go Local – it is wise to do business with companies licensed in your area. Local companies are more likely to be more familiar with local building codes and permit requirements. Should something not go as you had intended, returning to your worksite for an adjustment will be much easier. If the job goes awry, you may have more recourse with a local company.
4. Get multiple bids – as the saying goes if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Likewise, if the estimate seems like price gouging, they could be preying on your sense of urgency.
5. Get Everything in writing – should something go wrong, a verbal contract will not help you. Make sure you communicate expectations especially for things like materials, cost, timeframe, recourse, subcontractors and payment, and get it is writing.
6. Understand the contract prior to signing. – it is your obligation to understand the contract before signing. If you are unclear about terms of the contract, seek council. Do not sign blank or incomplete contracts.
7. Don’t sign away your rights. Be wary of “assignment of benefit contracts”. Consult your insurance agent for how an assignment of benefit contract may affect your claim.
8. Pay by credit card whenever possible. Should a fraudulent situation arise, you may have recourse with the credit card company. Payment by check offers proof of payment. Make sure you recieve proof of payment, and satisfaction of any lien that may have been filed.
9. Make sure all permits are closed. – Make sure your work has been inspected, approved and the permit closed. An open permit on the property could cause headaches if work needs to be done in the future, you wish to sell the home or transfer the title.
10. Do not pay before the work is completed. Paying in full prior to completion provides little incentive to have the job completed.
At Butler & Associates Insurance Agency, we understand how a volatile our weather can be. We’re here to help you find the right coverage to protect you, your family, your business and your most important assets. In the event of a claim, we’re here to help you weather the storm.