The Storm Chasers’ and their scams

The storm is over.  You, your family and pets are safe, and you’ve got the hail damage to prove your little run it with Mother Nature.  The initial impact can be traumatizing, but what happens next could even be worse.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, hail damage insurance abuse is on the rise.  The number of claims relating to fraudulent contractors doubled between 2006 and 2009.  And some believe, although the latest numbers have not been released, that consumers could see those numbers actually triple for the years 2009 through 2012.

“Storm Chasers,” unscrupulous scam artists that try to rip off consumers and insurance companies after a storm,  are a growing blight on the construction industry.  This extremely organized group of over promising, under delivering weasels prey on consumers’ emotional instability immediately after a storm of significant magnitude.

There are, however, a few important steps that you, as an educated consumer can take to protect yourself.

1.  Remember, you are a target.  Acknowledge, and accept the fact that these fraudsters will attempt to take advantage of you while you are in a stressed out, emotionally challenged mindset.  Recognition of this will alleviate many other related problem.  (Expect your door bell to ring that same day, or at the latest, the very next morning with over zealous, fast talking, quasi-professionals.)

2.  Time is on your side.  The experienced Storm Chaser will attempt to get you to commit to the repairs that he proposes immediately, so you can “get on with your life” and “not have to worry about” hiring a reputable firm.  Do NOT allow anyone to pressure you into “signing right now”  If this person makes you feel uncomfortable, ask them to immediately leave.

3.  Get everything in writing.  However, do not authorize a blank work order under the premise of allowing the contractor to negotiate directly with your insurance company to help get the most dollar for you.