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Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program post-storm recommendations

In wake of Hurricane Matthew, property owners are reminded to exercise caution

RICHMOND, Va.—The Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program is reminding citizens who suffer property damage as a result of severe weather to take precautions before approving repairs to their home or vehicle.

Policyholders shouldn’t hire a contractor or mechanic until they’ve confirmed with their insurance provider that the work is covered.

John Huddleston, president of the Virginia Chapter of the International Association of Special Investigation Units (VAIASIU), said standard homeowner’s policies don’t typically cover flood damage but auto insurance policies sometimes do.

Huddleston also warned policyholders against fly-by-night contractors that sometimes surface after a severe weather event.

“Take care of your safety first,” Huddleston said. “Protect property from further damage. Make prompt notification to carriers. And always make sure you check out a potential contractor’s background.”

It’s recommended that consumers hire licensed contractors. Consumers can confirm licensure and view any past disciplinary actions on the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation website at www.dpor.virginia.gov.

First Sgt. Steve Hall, Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program coordinator, said that property owners also have a responsibility in how they handle claims.

“Use your insurance coverage, that’s what it’s there for,” he said. “But don’t get carried away. If you try to claim pre-existing damage or inflate your claim to recoup deductibles or premiums, that’s attempting to obtain money by false pretense, and it’s illegal.”

More than $21 million in fraudulent claims were collected in Virginia last year and another $19.6 million in fraudulent claims were attempted. Nationally, insurers are estimated to lose more than $80 billion each year to insurance fraud.

“Those losses get passed to the consumer,” Hall said. “Insurance fraud ultimately costs each Virginian hundreds of dollars each year.”

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