Hailstorms that cause significant damage – like the ones that struck the greater Dallas area last weekend – can often be followed by a criminal element seeking to take advantage of the situation.
The Texas Department of Insurance has sent investigators to the area to help deter fraud, which can range from shoddy repairs to price gouging. In the worst cases, people offering services to storm victims may simply take their money and run.
“We’re sending a team of fraud investigators to the storm damaged areas to serve as a deterrent to criminal activity,” TDI Fraud Chief Christopher Davis said. “We’ll be meeting with local authorities in the affected areas to share anti-fraud materials and make sure everyone is on the lookout for signs of criminal activity associated with storm chasers.”
TDI offers the following tips when hiring a contractor for home repairs:
• Start with a call to your insurance company to get advice on what repairs should cost.
• Use local companies and check their references and contact numbers.
• Get written estimates. These should be on the company’s letterhead with clear contact information.
• Get more than one bid. This will help you gauge which offers are legitimate and which may be too high or too good to be true.
• Don’t pay the full amount in advance. Legitimate contractors may require a partial payment up front to get started, but your final payment should not be made until the job is finished.
• If you feel pressured or threatened, call the police.
Another concern is fraudulent activity by licensed public insurance adjusters and unauthorized individuals or entities acting as public insurance adjusters. Texas law prohibits public adjusters from participating in the repair process to prevent conflicts of interest. For example, roofers may not act as public insurance adjusters, or advertise that they will handle the insurance claim for you.
If you have information about insurance fraud, file a complaint with TDI’s Fraud Unit online at www.tdi.texas.gov/fraud/index.html or by calling 1-800-252-3439.
You can also file complaints against businesses with the Texas Attorney General’s Office at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or by calling 1-800-252-8011.
For more information, contact: [email protected]