BBB warns of scams for forest fire victims

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DENVER — The Better Business Bureau issued a warning Wednesday for residents affected by wildfires in Colorado to be on the lookout for scams.

The warning regards filing for insurance claims and is good advice for anyone who might have to go through the process.

“During last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire, there was an influx of out-of- state private insurance adjustors who charged high fees when residents could have avoided this cost had they contacted their insurance agent directly,” said BBB spokeswoman Katie Carrol.

Most insurance companies have their own adjusters to evaluate property damage and help filing claims.

The scam is when a third-party adjuster will charge a fee and then disappear.

“Others may refer the homeowner to a disreputable contactor, from whom they receive a kickback,” Carroll said.

“Another challenge for those who lost property – especially during this highly emotional time – is to avoid being pressured into signing any documents. The victim may not be aware that what they are actually signing is an enforceable contract,” Carroll said.

The BBB recommends these tips to avoid scams:

  • Go to www.bbb.org and read the company’s business review.
  • Get everything in writing and don’t sign anything without some type of professional or even legal advice. Also, don’t sign anything without having a thorough understanding of what is being proposed.
  • Find out if the company is local; are they going to be around in six months?
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and has up-to-date insurance.
  • Check the references provided by the contactor. Often the reference will say they are no longer satisfied with the work and do not wish to be a reference.
  • Be skeptical of anyone who shows up at your home and offers discounted rates.

You can also check out these links to help you avoid scams.