Fire Victims: Beware of Contractors and Insurance Scams
July 10, 2013

DENVER – Wildfires throughout Colorado this summer have left homeowners and business owners in affected areas with no choice but to restore or rebuild. The Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder warns that natural disasters attract unscrupulous contractors and insurance adjusters out to make a fast buck.

During last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire, there was an influx of out-of-state private insurance adjustors who charged high fees when residents could have avoided this cost had they contacted their insurance agent directly. Some public adjustors charge a fee and then disappear. Others may refer the homeowner to a disreputable contactor, from whom they receive a kickback.

“Working with your insurance agent directly and hiring BBB Accredited contractors is the wisest course for fire victims to take,” said Su Hawk, president and CEO for the BBB of Denver/Boulder.

Another challenge for those who lost property – especially during this highly emotional time – is to avoid being pressured into signing any documents. The victim may not be aware that what they are actually signing is an enforceable contract.

The BBB encourages property owners to follow these simple tips:

· Before removing debris, visit the website for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (cdphe.state.co.us) for detailed information about how to go about this process.

• For restoration projects, hire only local contractors qualified in mold remediation and property restoration.

• Be suspicious of any contractor who contacts you unexpectedly or is going door-to-door to offer services.

• Keep a copy of all contracts you sign and any warranty papers your contractor might give you.

• Don’t be in a hurry. It may take a while for local contractors to get around to you and you may be frustrated. That is understandable. But scammers understand this too and will attempt to manipulate these feelings of frustration to your detriment. Don’t be pressured into making a decision.

Find out if the company uses their own workers or if they hire individual, third-party sub-contractors. It is very important to know exactly who will be doing the work and who is responsible if something goes wrong.

• Do not hire a contractor who asks you to pay a large amount upfront before work begins. It’s best to stagger payments according to the work schedule.

Additional information on mitigating mold and mildew that might result from fire-fighting efforts can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html.

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About the BBB

The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Reviews, BBB Charity Reports and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, there are 113 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit denver.bbb.org for more information.