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Ga. insurance agents going door-to-door to stop price gouging, scammers after tornado

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 5:54 PM EDT
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BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - A group of seven agents from the Georgia Office of the Commissioner of Insurance was in Bryan County with the goal of keeping storm victims from being taken advantage of by price gougers and scammers.

They’re the boots on the ground for Georgia Insurance and Safety Commissioner John King.

“Don’t sign anything until you’ve talked with your agent.”

Canvassing storm-struck areas of northern Bryan County, spreading valuable information to homeowners.

“Ask the contractor or roofer or person cleaning the yard if they have a business license, and proof of insurance,” Special Agent Michael Browning said.

The special agents are equipping storm victims with the tools they need to keep what they refer to as bad actors from taking advantage.

As a former Police Chief, Commissioner King says he’s prioritized revamping his office’s fraud investigations division from day one on the job.

He says because of those efforts, the division now has the resources to both go after criminals who have already committed insurance fraud.

“I just hope everybody…these guys get to them in time to warn them, hey, stop. Go through your insurance company, let them take care of it. They know who’s reputable, who isn’t. And thankful enough we were here, that they walked up here and let us know that,” said Chris Nelson, who’s home was destroyed by the tornado.

Leading the team of agents Thursday, was Terri Blackmer, Chief of Criminal Investigations.

“What we do want to prevent are those very people that I’m talking about, the contractors that are the bad actors, that want to take advantage of the situation. We want to make sure that they’re not in here to do that. So, yes, we have been noticed by some, and they’ve decided to leave the area,” Chief Blackmer said.

Chief Blackmer says one of the number one rules is, don’t give cash to anyone who comes knocking at your door offering to do a job, whether that’s clearing debris or putting a tarp on a roof.

There are obviously good companies out here doing work, and some even volunteering their services for free. For folks who do still have questions about insurance claims and other things, Commissioner King’s Office said they will be at Lanier Primary from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 11.

Here are some tips from Commissioner King’s Office:

Tips to Protect Yourself from Fraud

- Have your insurance adjuster estimate damage/repair costs to make sure your insurer will cover repairs BEFORE the work starts

-  Hire local and reputable contractors

o Avoid strangers who go door-to-door, particular after a storm

o They may be unlicensed and dishonest

- Get several bids – multiple bids help protect you

- Avoid paying in advance; NEVER pay a contractor in full before work begins

o 20% or less upfront is reasonable

- CALL OUR CONSUMER SERVICES DIVISION

o We can answer questions, help with claim disputes, and investigate potential fraud

o 1-800-656-2298

o Open Monday-Friday from 8am to 6pm

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