Post-Hermine scams reported in Taylor County

in Statewide by

First comes the natural disaster. Then come the scam artists.

Someone is going around Taylor County claiming to represent the Federal Emergency Management Agency and demanding $150 to help people file Hurricane Hermine-related insurance claims, the state Department of Financial Services said Monday.

“There is no fee to file a FEMA claim and Floridians who encounter this scam should report it by calling the Department’s Consumer Insurance Helpline at 1-877-693-5236,” the department said in a news release.

“Consumers can also utilize this helpline to get free help with the filing of hurricane-related insurance claims,” the agency said.

“It’s unconscionable to think that someone would lie and cheat their way into profiting off of catastrophe but, unfortunately, it happens,” state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said.

“I strongly urge all Floridians to remain vigilant against such scams, and to report all suspicious activity to authorities immediately. My office will thoroughly investigate reports of insurance and financial fraud and will prosecute the offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”

The department’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services has dispatched fraud investigators to the county.

Officials expect that this is just the beginning, and urged policyholders to contact insurers directly to report storm damage.

“Be wary of strangers who call on the telephone or who knock on your door asking for personal information,” the department said. “Ask for a telephone number so can you call back to verify that the entity is legitimate; hang up on anyone who refuses to coordinate in providing such information.”

Demand to see contractors’ credentials before you sign anything, the department said. Check them out with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, here.

“Beware of fly-by-night repair companies and hire only licensed and reputable people,” the agency said.

Read everything carefully. Ask questions — like, who is responsible for paying, you or your insurer?

Understand that only a licensed public adjuster or attorney can file an insurance claim on your behalf. You can check credentials here. And you can find more information here.

When in doubt, call the department’s insurance consumer hotline at 877-693-5236.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.