Attorney General Raoul warns of storm repair scams

Following deadly storms in southern and central Illinois on Friday night, Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Tuesday warned residents to be on the alert for con artists seeking to exploit owners and business owners who could need repairs due to storm damage.

After severe storms and tornadoes killed several people in Edwardsville, Ill. And damaged communities across the state, Governor JB Pritzker issued a 28-county disaster proclamation and activated the Center for Operations in state emergency to provide assistance in affected areas.

Raoul warned residents that scammers often move quickly through communities to profit from damage to their home or business. Raoul noted that these “storm chasers” used the opportunity to pressure people to make quick and often expensive decisions about cleanup and construction work. Raoul also warned residents that con artists can act as public adjusters who offer “free” inspections to submit a claim to homeowners insurance companies.

“As communities hit by the weekend storms take stock and mourn all that has been lost, residents should be aware that con artists are already finding ways to profit from the devastation,” Raoul said in a statement. . “As residents and business owners consider recovering and rebuilding from this tragedy, I urge them to take steps to protect themselves against fraud by exercising caution before hiring contractors they do not. do not know, especially those who canvass door-to-door. “

General contractors are not required by state law to be licensed, but municipalities may require permits or have other local requirements. Home and business owners should check with their local governments for more information on permits or other local requirements before hiring someone. Insurance adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance and roofers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

“No one trying to recover from a tragedy should also have to worry about being the victim of con artists,” said Mario Treto, Jr., acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, in a press release. “We strongly encourage anyone looking to hire a roofing contractor to first verify that they are licensed with the IDFPR by using the license search tool on the ministry’s website. “

Raoul also offered the following tips to help families and businesses avoid dishonest entrepreneurs:

• Beware of contractors who go door to door to offer “free” repair services or inspections. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, where possible, use established local contractors.
• Visit the Better Business Bureau websites in St. Louis, Central Illinois, Quad Cities, or Chicago to see if a company is a member and if any complaints have been filed against it.
• Even if it is necessary to act quickly, shop around. Get written quotes from multiple contractors and don’t rush into a deal.
• Get all the terms of a contract in writing and get a copy of the signed contract.
• Never make full payment until all work has been completed to your satisfaction.
• Never pay in cash.
• Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three working days if you have signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home.
• In the event of repair after damage, if your insurer refuses coverage, you have the right to terminate the contract within five days of your insurer’s refusal.
• Be aware that public adjusters do not work for your insurance company and may charge additional fees. If you submit a claim to your insurance company, your insurance company will likely provide an adjuster to review your claim at no additional cost to you.
• If you are contracting with a public adjuster, pay close attention to the amount of fees charged and whether you are required to hire a specific contractor for repairs.
• Ask to see the required state and local permits and licenses. Claims adjusters and roofers must be licensed by public bodies. This should raise a red flag if the roofer or adjuster does not have a required license, or if the name on the license does not match the name on the business card or truck. Visit the IDFPR website to search for roofing licenses. Visit the DOI website or call 866-445-5364 to verify that a public claims adjuster is licensed and in good standing.

Raoul also reminded consumers that the Illinois home repair and renovation law requires contractors to provide customers with written contracts for any repair or renovation work costing more than $ 1,000. A contract must be signed by the client and the contractor. The law also requires contractors to purchase at least the minimum amount of insurance for property damage, personal injury, and improper home repairs. Contractors should also provide consumers with an information brochure called “Home Repair: Know Your Rights”.

Raoul encouraged local residents and business owners to call local law enforcement agencies and his office’s consumer fraud hotline (1-800-386-5438 in Chicago, 1-800-243-0618 in Springfield and 1-800-243-0607 in Carbondale) to report any suspicious activity.

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