State police and AG Herring’s tips how to avoid insurance fraud

VIRGINIA (WAVY) — The Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program wants to remind those who suffered storm damage to be careful before approving home or vehicle repairs.

Policyholders shouldn’t hire a contractor of mechanic until confirming 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 most standard homeowner’s policies don’t cover flood damage. Auto insurance policies sometimes do.

Huddleston also warned policyholders against fly-by-night contractors that sometimes offer help with cleaning up and making repairs for cash after severe weather.

“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.”

Hiring a licensed contractor is always the safest bet. You can determine whether or not a contractor has their license, and see any past disciplinary actions, on the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation website.

Property owners are also responsible for how they handle claims, said First Sgt. Steve Hall, Virginia State Police Insurance Fraud Program coordinator.

“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. 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.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring released the following the statement:

“This storm has already had a significant impact on Virginia families and we don’t want anyone to be a victim twice,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Sadly, those affected by storms are often the target of frauds, scams, and other illegal practices as they try to clean up and move forward. I strongly encourage that Virginians make themselves aware of the type of fraudulent behavior that follow natural disasters like this. Know your rights, resist the pressure to make quick decisions, and call my office anytime you feel like you may have been a victim of a deceptive or illegal business practice.”