News: 2010 Press Release
For Release: February 18, 2010
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Insurance Commissioner Poizner Warns Residents in Mudslide Areas to Watch Out for Scam Artists
Reports of unlicensed contractors soliciting business on the rise in Los Angeles
Even though the rains have subsided for now, California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today advised residents of the recent Los Angeles area mudslides to be vigilant and double check the licenses of all contractors and insurance adjusters to avoid being scammed.
"Unfortunately, after a disaster such as wildfires, homeowners can be hit a second time by mudslides and we don't want them to be hit a third time by unscrupulous people trying to scam them and take their money," Commissioner Poizner said. "That's why, with a few precautions and a little work, people can take simple steps and avoid a financial disaster on top of what already happened."
Here are some tips and facts to help avoid being victimized by an insurance scam:
- Immediately contact your insurance company and/or insurance agent. If you don't have the contact information, the Department of Insurance can help or you can call (800) 927-HELP (4357).
- Don't sign any contracts for repairs or other needs until you have spoken directly to your insurance company representative or agent.
- Demand to see identification from anyone contacting you regarding your claim. Ask to see the California adjuster's license and note the license number and full name. Do not rely upon a business card.
- There are two types of insurance adjusters - private insurance adjusters, representing insurance companies such as Farmers, State Farm, or AAA and public adjusters, who represent insurance claimants.
- Insurance company adjusters are employed by insurance companies. They do not charge a fee. Public adjusters work for and represent insurance claimants. They do charge a fee. Generally, the fee is a percentage of your entire insurance settlement amount.
- Public adjusters cannot solicit your business while the loss is underway, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. and for seven calendar days after the disaster.
- A public adjuster contract can be cancelled by you within 72 hours of signing.
- It is illegal for a public adjuster to advance money as an inducement to sign a contract.
- Public adjusters may not offer referral fees in excess of $100.
- Public adjusters may not have an interest in any contractor, demolition company, or any entity making repairs to your property.
- Public adjusters may not use a badge as identification.
- Beware of anyone attempting to rush you into signing a contract.
- Beware of any contractor attempting to have you sign a contract or begin demolition and clean-up.
- Beware of any attorney urging you to sign any documents.
Other contact information:
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY:
1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or www.fema.gov
CONTRACTORS STATE LICENSE BOARD:
1-800-321-CSLB (2752) or www.cslb.ca.gov
NATIONAL INSURANCE CRIME BUREAU:
1-888-815-9064 or www.nicb.org
Commissioner Poizner oversees 16 CDI Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Approximately 2,000 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by the Department of Insurance's enforcement division since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 - more arrests than have been made during any other two year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.
Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Callers from out of state, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.
If you are a member of the public wishing information, please visit our Consumer Services.