Originally published by Consumer Protection Coalition |
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2018) – With Hurricane Michael rapidly approaching Florida, the Consumer Protection Coalition has launched a series of digital ads warning homeowners and insured drivers to beware of the dangers of signing an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) to start repairs for damage caused by the storm.
The CPC urges consumers to beware of requests from home repair vendors to sign documents they don’t fully understand before talking to their insurance agent or insurer. In signing an Assignment of Benefits contract, consumers could lose control of their insurance policy, allowing unscrupulous vendors to inflate the cost of claims and file lawsuits against insurance companies that dispute the amount. What results are increased insurance costs for all policyholders, which can put the dream of home ownership out of reach for many Floridians.
“As we saw last year following Hurricane Irma, consumers should be on alert for scam artists seeking to profit off people in times of crisis,’’ said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which spearheads the coalition. “Residents whose homes or vehicles are damaged during Hurricane Michael should review carefully all documents they are asked to sign and not feel pressured to sign an Assignment of Benefits contract.’’
Here are some tips to protect consumers against AOB abuse:
• Call your agent or insurance company first to report any losses.
• Hire only licensed, reputable companies and be wary of strangers who call or knock on your door seeking to inspect your home or solicit personal information.
• Review all documents before signing and ask questions so you know exactly what you are signing. Ask who is responsible for paying the vendor – you (the consumer), or your insurance company.
• If you suspect fraud or suspicious activity, call the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-693-5236.
The CPC’s latest digital ads are intended to raise awareness among consumers of the potential risks of signing an AOB. Consumers do not need to sign an AOB to initiate storm-related repairs and should be cautious of vendors going door to door in affected neighborhoods offering to fix their homes, but only if they sign an AOB. Automobile owners should also be on the alert for auto glass repair companies offering to replace windshields before an insurer has the ability to inspect the damage.
The Consumer Protection Coalition has been urging state lawmakers to enact meaningful AOB reform for several years, warning that AOB abuse hurts homeowners, erodes Florida’s business-friendly environment and threatens the stability of the state’s insurance market. Without reform to rein in abusive practices, AOB scams will continue to drive premiums higher for years to come.
The Consumer Protection Coalition is a broad-based group of professionals advocating for reforms to end Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse. Members include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Justice Reform Institute, Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors, Insurance Information Institute, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Safelite Group Inc., Associated Builders and Contractors, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Council of Property Claims Professionals, Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Florida Bankers Association, Florida Property and Casualty Association, Florida Realtors, Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Florida Retail Federation, Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies, National Insurance Crime Bureau, Professional Insurance Agents of Florida, Rytech and VetCor Services. Learn more about the Coalition at www.FightFraud.Today, follow the Coalition on Twitter @CPC_FL and “like” our page at FB.com/consumerprotectioncoalition.