Spring often time to beware of bogus contractors
May 2, 2013
HELENA, Mont. – Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen is warning Montanans of a possible scam involving contractors who go door-to-door selling roof repair services at little to no cost to the homeowner.
The scam starts when a contractor comes knocking, recommending roof repairs and offering to handle the insurance claim on the homeowner's behalf. But what sounds like a low-cost fix to the homeowner could turn into expensive insurance fraud.
"Always be wary when someone comes to your house and tries to sell you something that seems too good to be true," said Lindeen. "It probably is."
The scam works like this: A contractor approaches a homeowner, claiming the home's roof looks like it needs repairs. The contractor asks to inspect the roof, and in some cases, may purposefully damage the roof during the "inspection." In other cases, the roof is legitimately in need of repair. Either way, the contractor tells the homeowner he or she must take immediate action to fix the roof.
The contractor claims to have experience working directly with insurance companies and will "handle everything." In some cases, the homeowner is advised not to speak to their insurance company. Once a contract is signed, the homeowner could be on the hook for thousands of dollars in repair costs for repairs that may not be necessary, may be done with shoddy materials or not completed, at all.
To avoid falling victim, insurance experts at Lindeen's office warn homeowners to be on the lookout for red flags.
First, only certain licensed professionals called "public adjustors" are allowed to act on your behalf when communicating with your insurance company. People who are not licensed are committing fraud. Ask to see the adjustor's credentials, and, if you are in doubt, call the Commissioner's office to verify if the person you are dealing with is indeed licensed. Always be wary when asked not to speak to your own insurance company.
Second, a roofing contractor is not in a position to know what is covered by your insurance policy. That is the job of a licensed insurance adjustor. Legitimate professionals know that normal wear and tear on your roof is not covered by insurance. In the case of the roofing scam, a bogus contractor could make a claim with your insurance company, but the company may reject the claim, leaving you on the hook to pay for the new roof out-of-pocket.
Finally, if you are approached by door-to-door roofing contractors, be cautious and don't sign any contract that forbids you from communicating with your own insurance company.
If you suspect you have been targeted by this scam, call the Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance at 1-800-332-6148.