Help is available for storm victims

A state of emergency has been declared in 15 counties affected by May storms and the Oklahoma Insurance Department stands ready to help tornado victims..

“After talking with some of the survivors in Garvin County, my department wants to help these families get back on their feet as soon as possible,” Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak said. “We want to make sure these folks have their insurance claims handled promptly and fairly.”

Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) field representatives are also visiting the storm damaged areas. Anyone who needs help with an insurance claim can call the Consumer Assistance division at 1-800-522-0071 or field representative  Amanda Riddle at 405-420-5398 and Rochelle Covington at 405-496-4724.

“Unfortunately, crooks looks at these storms as a chance to take advantage of people. But our anti-fraud agents are on the ground in these towns trying to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Doak said.

The investigators are installing yard signs listing OID’s consumer assistance phone number and educating storm survivors about potential scams. They are also sharing these tips on hiring service providers after a disaster:

  • Don’t let anyone inspect your property without you watching. Some unscrupulous companies will cause damage to drive up the repair cost, and your insurance company will likely not cover the additional cost.
  • Never pay the entire repair bill in advance. Pay in full only when the work is completed according to your agreement.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who offers to get you more money for your insurance claim.
  • Look for an established, licensed company and request references.
  • Ask to see certificates of insurance to be sure both liability and workers’ compensation insurance coverage is carried and are in force during the time the repair work is being done.
  • Insist on a detailed, written estimate clearly stating the quantity of materials needed (labor charges, work specifications) which include approximate starting and completion dates, payment procedures and that any necessary building permits are secured. Some scammers will trick you into signing a contract by saying it’s an estimate. The homeowner’s signature is not required to receive an estimate.
  • Carefully review and understand any warranty and watch for conditions that would void it.
  • Use caution and ask questions before accepting a bid substantially lower than other bids covering the same repair work.
  • Avoid high pressure sales tactics.
  • Don’t allow a roofing company to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. That can only be done by a licensed public adjuster.
  • If you do use a licensed public adjuster, make sure they do not have any financial interest in a roofing company.

If you suspect insurance fraud, report it by calling 1-800-522-0071 or going to oid.ok.gov.