The Villages Voice - August 2020

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Seniors -v- Crime: Avoiding Insurance Fraud

by Seniors -v- Crime

 AVOIDING INSURANCE FRAUD

Hurricane season is upon us!  It's important to be aware of some dangers posed, not just by the weather, but by people who may attempt to take advantage of you during a stressful time. Please beware of anyone asking you to sign an "AOB” (Assignment of Benefits) agreement or any organizations that want to provide vital assistance from insurance adjusters, emergency/medical personnel, and other needed services. Unfortunately, not all of these people and/or organizations have good intentions. Assignment of Benefits (AOB) Warning This is a document often used by unscrupulous vendors. Signing an AOB can lead to harmful consequences for the homeowner.  An AOB is an agreement that, once signed, transfers the insurance claims rights or benefits of the policy to a third-party. An AOB gives the third-party authority to file a claim, make repair decisions and collect insurance payments on your behalf without your involvement. AOB's are commonly used in homeowners’ insurance claims by water remediation companies and contractors and sometimes roofing contractors. We are aware of contractors who file fraudulent claims, perform shoddy repair work not up to code, or do not perform the work at all. Always read a vendor’s contract to ensure it does not include AOB language. Call your insurance agent to learn more or if you suspect you have signed a contract with AOB language. Insurance Fraud  After a natural disaster, unethical vendors or public adjusters may approach you with schemes promising to put you in a better position than you were before the catastrophe. These schemes usually involve kickbacks to the vendor or adjuster. Contractors or vendors may ask you for a large down payment to begin work, and after they collect your money, you may never see them again. How to Avoid Fraud After a Catastrophe 
  • Check with your insurance company or your insurance agent for credible remediation companies, contractors, or vendors.
  • Beware of high pressure sales people. Don't be rushed into signing a contract. Take time to obtain written estimates from more than one vendor.
  • Know with whom you are dealing. Obtain references, check with the Better Business Bureau, Seniors Vs. Crime, and the Consumer Services Division of the Florida Department of Agriculture.
  • Beware of anyone who approaches you unsolicited or says they can perform your repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job.
  • Get at least three (3) written, itemized estimates.
  • Don't make large down payments. Although down payments are customary, some unethical vendors disappear after receiving the down payment or after performing limited work.
  • Ensure the vendor you select is properly insured.
  • Check for proof of insurance and verify with their insurer that their policy is current.
  • Check to see if the contractor carries Workers Compensation Insurance and verify bonding with the bonding agency.
  • Don’t sign a contract containing AOB provisions.
  • Don’t sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until you are satisfied with the work performed. 
We hope this situation doesn't happen to you, but in the event you believe someone is committing a disaster fraud scheme, or if you fall victim to one, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) immediately. The NCDF task force was created post-Hurricane Katrina and involves over 20 federal agencies, U.S. attorneys, and law enforcement officers, who serve as advocates for those affected by fraud. You can contact The Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866.720.5721 or online at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/how-report-disaster-related-fraud. If you need assistance with understanding any aspects of insurance claims fraud, contact the nearest Seniors Vs. Crime office in The Villages for advice or assistance. There is never a charge for their services. Seniors Vs. Crime can be reached at:
  • The Fruitland Park Police Department Annex in the Moyer Recreation Center in The Villages, (352) 674-1882.
  • The Marion County Sheriff's Office in The Villages, (352) 753-7775
  • The Sumter County Sheriff's Office in The Villages, (352) 689-4600, Extension 4606.
  • The Wildwood Police Department Annex at Brownwood in The Villages, (352) 753-0727.
Seniors Vs. Crime does have a Speakers Bureau that will gladly come to your club, church or group to speak about scams. Contact any SVC office to schedule a talk. Volunteers’ at all four offices are ready, willing and able to assist you. To keep up with the latest scams, LIKE ‘Seniors vs. Crime Region 4’ on Face Book. Hablamos Español. Por favor pregunte por Yolanda. Martes a Viernes: 10:00 A.M. a 2:00 P.M., (352) 689 4606.