Disaster Proclamation Issued for 34 Illinois Counties Due To Historic Flood Levels
Chicago – As several Illinois counties continue to experience record levels of flood waters, Attorney General Kwame Raoul today reminded Illinois residents to be vigilant for scammers looking to exploit home and business owners in need of repairs from flood-related damage.
Last month, a state disaster proclamation was issued for 34 counties, and more than 400 Illinois National Guardsmen were activated to provide additional support in river communities. Representatives of Raoul’s office have visited some impacted communities to provide information to help homeowners and business owners avoid repair scams when floodwaters recede.
Raoul reminded residents that scammers often move quickly into communities to exploit people with damage to their homes or businesses. Raoul noted these “storm chasers” use the opportunity to pressure people into making quick and often expensive decisions about cleanup and construction work. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has received reports that storm chasers have already started entering some communities to take advantage of residents and business owners.
“Record flooding has devastated river communities throughout Illinois, and it is critical that homeowners and business owners are on alert for scammers who will use the devastation left behind to line their pockets,” Raoul said. “I encourage people to contact my office or check with the Better Business Bureau to find out whether complaints have been made against a particular contractor, and to be wary of any individual who solicits home repair or insurance adjusting services door-to-door.”
Raoul also warned residents that scam artists may be operating as insurance adjusters or public adjusters, who also go door-to-door offering to help homeowners obtain insurance money for home repairs. Oftentimes, these adjusters receive a fee or own the home repair company they recommend. Raoul reminded homeowners that they can work directly with their insurance companies for free.
“It’s appalling that anyone would see this situation as an opportunity to scam others, but unfortunately this is something we often see after disasters,” said Acting IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “We want everyone affected by flooding to be aware of the potential for scam artists and take steps to protect their personal information. The Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline
is an excellent resource for protecting a community from unscrupulous fraud schemes during the flood recovery phase.”
Raoul said 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 about permits or other local requirements before hiring anyone. Insurance adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), and roofers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).
Raoul also offered the following tips to help protect families and businesses from dishonest contractors:
- Be wary of contractors who go door-to-door to offer repair services. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline (1-800-386-5438 in Chicago, 1-800-243-0618 in Springfield, and 1-800-243-0607 in Carbondale) to check out a contractor and to learn if any complaints have been filed against a particular business.
- Visit the Better Business Bureau’s central Illinois, St. Louis or Chicago websites to see if a business is a member and whether any complaints have been lodged against it.
- Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around. Get written estimates from multiple contractors, and don’t be rushed into a deal.
- Get all of the terms of a contract in writing, and obtain a copy of the signed contract.
• Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction.
- Never pay in cash.
- Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if you signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home.
- In the case of disaster repair, if your insurance carrier denies coverage, you have the right to cancel the contract within five days of your insurance carrier’s denial.
- Ask to see required state and local permits and licenses. Insurance adjusters and roofers must be licensed by state agencies. It should raise a red flag if the roofer or adjuster does not have a required license, or if the name on the license doesn’t match the name on the business card or truck. Please visit the IDFPR’s website to search for roofing licenses. Visit the DOI’s website or call (866) 445-5364 to verify that a public adjuster is licensed and in good standing.
Raoul also reminded consumers that the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act requires contractors to provide customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor. The law also requires contractors to carry at least the minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet entitled “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights
Raoul encouraged local residents and business owners to call local law enforcement agencies and his office’s Consumer Fraud Hotline
to report any suspicious activity.