Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate & Insurers Team Up to Combat Fraud
Tallahassee - Monday August 22, 2022: As peak hurricane season activity begins, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate (ICA) Tasha Carter and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) have announced a joint effort to help prevent residents from falling victim to contractor fraud and abuse.
Florida’s ICA and APCIA have created a free, printer-friendly guide that details red-flag warning signs and steps to take before hiring a contractor. With above-average activity forecast this hurricane season, fraudsters may have many opportunities to prey on homeowners in need of repairs.
The ICA/APCIA Don't Be a Victim! Prevent Contractor Fraud and Abuse Guide provides more detailed information and tips.
“Fraud drives up costs and leaves consumers to cover the shortage," said Tasha Carter, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate. “I encourage homeowners to print the guide and keep it in a secure location with their insurance and other important documents, so they have it for easy reference after a storm. Prepare as much as possible beforehand to protect yourself from fraud and make the disaster recovery process smoother."
“Insurers want to protect their customers against fraudsters looking to prey on disaster victims," said Logan McFaddin, vice president of state government relations for APCIA. “Before hurricane season gets busy, homeowners should create a list of licensed, reputable contractors in their area who they can call if their home is damaged.”
According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, approximately $308.6 billion is lost annually to insurance fraud. Insurance fraud tactics and schemes result in insurance companies paying higher negotiated settlements or paying additional costs to litigate these claims, which further burdens consumers in the form of increased insurance rates, lack of availability, and reduced coverage.
Florida’s ICA and APCIA offer the following tips to help prevent homeowners from falling victim to contractor fraud and abuse.
- Be alert and know the warning signs. Be on the lookout for unsolicited offers to inspect or repair your roof. Be cautious of contractors who try to pressure you into signing a contract and require cash for a down payment or full payment up front.
- Contact your insurer first. File your claim first and let your insurer verify what repairs are necessary before signing any contracts. Then find a licensed contractor to make the repairs. Your insurer can help you identify licensed contractors in your area.
- Verify insurance and licenses. Make sure the contractor you hire has liability and workers’ compensation insurance and check to see if the contractor has a legitimate local address. Florida residents should check the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website to be sure the contractor is licensed and bonded.
- Get three bids and check references. Get three written, itemized estimates for the work and compare the bids. Require the contractor to provide you with references and contact those references to verify the work was done on time and completed in compliance with the current building code.
- Check for complaints. Florida residents should check with Florida DBPR or the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.
- Never pay in full upfront. Most contractors will require a reasonable down payment, but never pay in full up front and do not pay in cash. Make sure you have a detailed written contract in place before paying anything. Pay for the work in installments as the job is completed and use a check or credit card so that you have a record of payment. Verify that the work was done before paying the invoices.
- Get a written contract. Always get a written contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do, including prices for labor and materials. Make sure the contract includes clean-up procedures and estimated start and completion dates. Never sign a contract with blanks that can be filled in later by the contractor. Ensure you understand the contract prior to signing; seek assistance from a trusted friend or relative, if needed
About Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate
Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Tasha Carter is committed to increasing consumer awareness and education; assisting consumers with insurance-related matters; and engaging legislatively to represent Florida’s insurance consumers. The ICA serves the interests of Florida’s insurance consumers by representing the general public before key stakeholders and developing consumer-focused solutions.
About the American Property Casualty Insurance Association
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is the primary national trade association for home, auto, and business insurers. APCIA promotes and protects the viability of private competition for the benefit of consumers and insurers, with a legacy dating back 150 years.