A disaster can destroy homes and damage lives and futures. That is bad enough, but what could be even worse are the swarms of scam artists, who arrive on the scene of the disaster, eager to rip off those they can get their hooks into. It is the hurt and vulnerable who are the best victims. Fly-by-night contractors and door-to-door scammers descend like flies when they find innocent people whose misfortunes they can benefit from.
No matter how well prepared you are, a disaster can leave you confused and you could probably be confronted by problems, you never thought of. That is when you are most vulnerable. Staying organized and following procedures will help to keep you safe.
What You Should Do
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Since there may be many people in the same situation as you, getting through may be difficult. Keep trying. When you do make contact, state your situation clearly. Have all your policy information at hand. Ask questions to get clarity on any points you do not understand. Maintain a log of all the people you talk to,along with dates, times, and a summary of what was discussed.
- Make sure all your emails to and from the insurance company are properly sorted and filed safely.
- Follow the instructions you receive from the insurance company. The procedures can often appear to be a waste of time and frustrating, but insurers have mandatory procedures they must follow and that requirement devolves on their policy holders. By doing exactly what is asked of you, you can avoid a lot of delays and hassles.
- Document everything. Take pictures of the damage that has occurred. File receipts and records of all the payments you have made after the disaster struck.
- Once the insurance company accepts your claim, do not relax. It is when you have your guard down that scam artists will strike. Do not be in a rush to get repairs done. Returning to normality fast is tempting, but you need to be sure who you are entrusting the repairs to. In the conditions after a disaster, going online to check out contractors and verify references may be difficult. Do what you can. One thing that is essential, is to contact the Contractors State License Board in your area. You can phone the board at 800-321-2752 or go to the website at www.cslb.ca.gov to check a contractor’s license.
- Try to avoid dealing with middlemen. Going to an attorney or hiring a public adjuster should be a last resort. Your insurance company will provide you with an adjuster at no charge to you. Work directly with your insurance company – that prevents miscommunications and needless aggravation. Ask you insurance brokers for assistance if you need it.
- Do not start any repairs until the adjuster has given a go ahead.
Being Prepared Is Best
Planning for the worst is not being negative – it is a positive act that will help you to overcome the challenges that arise after a disaster. Remember that your insurance broker is there to provide you with the help you need on insurance related issues. Contact him to get a detailed checklist of what you should do if disaster strikes. And if it does happen, he is there to help you.