Homeowners warned of hurricane insurance scammers

Hurricane Ian

Rescue personnel search a flooded trailer park after Hurricane Ian passed by the area Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(NewsNation) — As widespread property damage caused by Hurricane Ian is being assessed, millions of homeowners looking to make insurance claims are being warned of scammers threatening to make a bad situation even worse.

For the Ferrata family in Valrico, Fla., their property damage was clear as soon as Ian hit.

“I mean, it’s heartbreaking because we knew it was gonna happen and, it actually happened,” Devon Ferrata said.

The massive tree the family feared might topple into their home did just that after the power went out.

“I immediately called my insurance company, filed a claim on the boat and the house and let them know that, ‘Hey, it is damaged, want to get the process started,’” Luke Ferrata said.

The process may be far messier for many others. Insurance experts say scammers are ready to prey on a new wave of vulnerable victims.

“You may have a contractor show up at your house and say, ‘I’m gonna get you a new roof, I’m gonna handle the insurance company, I’ll talk to them, I’ll adjust it, let’s look at your policy,'” said Florida insurance attorney Gina Clausen Lozier. “That’s unlicensed, it is illegal and it’s actually subject to a third-degree felony.”

Clausen Lozier says victims from previous hurricanes are still working to unwind the further damage from dealing with scammers.

According to Clausen Lozier, scammers often approach with promises of a quick fix and paperwork in hand.

“A lot of times, it’s really putting the insured in a difficult position because they are giving away certain rights in the policy that they don’t know they’re giving away,” Clausen Lozier said.

Due to supply chain issues and the magnitude of destruction, many expect the recovery and rebuilding to stretch on for years.

Because of this, victims may be more eager to fall for offers that are literally too good to be true.

“Watch out for people who are approaching you to help you file a claim,” said Trevor Burgess with Neptune Flood Insurance. “It’s your job as part of your insurance contract to contact your insurance company directly or your licensed insurance agent that sold you that policy.”

Almost every state offers online tools to ascertain whether insurance brokers or agents are properly licensed.

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