Uncovering the ‘Con’ in Contractor

Eye on Fraud

Severe weather seems to be the running theme of 2011 as much of the country has had to battle extremes in temperature, wind, precipitation and super-storms like hurricanes and tornadoes. As a result, many homeowners have been filing damage claims and hiring contractors.

But not all claims are equal and not all contractors are trustworthy. Serving as a would-be crime-stopping team protecting the insured from being scammed, Allstate’s Special Investigative Unit looks into questionable claims and fights fraud.

While the wild weather is expected to continue as we enter the peak of hurricane season, but much of the country is more wary about strong, windy hail storms. The SIU investigators have seen their share of hail damage scams, but one case in particular is worth recounting:

Case #26743

Note: The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Last year a Texas homeowner submitted a claim for hail damage to their roof, called their agent and hired a licensed contractor to come out and assess the damage. The Contractor, Mr. Shady, came back with a very large estimate for extensive repairs.

While it was confirmed that there was a hail storm in the area, the agent notified Investigator Nick Peerless because there were no other claims submitted in the nearby surrounding area. With that in mind, Investigator Peerless went to work, and his findings were intriguing.

First, he surveilled the other houses on that street, and none had obvious hail damage. Next, Peerless checked the house in question for collateral damage, including dents in metal accessories like a/c compressors, vents, gutters and downspouts—indicating density, size and direction of the hail storm.

Finally, he inspected patterns and details of the actual damage, looking for particular signs like bruising of shingles, compressed asphalt granules on the shingles (not crushed), and the location of the hail impacts.

In this case, Contractor Shady was to blame. When he examined the roof, there was little to no damage requiring repair, so he inflicted his own in order to increase repair costs and scam money from the insurance company.

Investigator Peerless was not fooled, and with his highly trained eye found the dents and marks to be consistent with those made by a tool, likely a hammer. The size and depth of the impressions were too consistent; tool marks were obvious on the metal parts of the roof, and the dead giveaway: The insured roof was damaged, but the uninsured satellite dish didn’t have a mark on it.

In the end, the shrewd Investigator Peerless foiled the plot of Contractor Shady and protected the homeowner from being scammed.

“Does a reckless hammer cause more bruises to the contractor or the roof?”

Zoe is a contributing blogger and member of Allstate Insurance Company’s Special Investigative Unit.
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