Oklahoma Insurance Department and NICB Use Billboards to Warn of Contractor Fraud

DES PLAINES, Ill., Oct. 4, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes in Oklahoma in July and August have prompted a warning from the Oklahoma Insurance Department and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). In a joint effort to protect consumers, the Oklahoma Insurance Department and the NICB have placed messages on six billboards located close to disaster zones in the following counties: Payne, Cleveland, Oklahoma, Creek, Bryan and Marshall.

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The billboards ask anyone suspecting contractor fraud as a result of the rebuilding efforts to call the NICB's toll-free hotline at 1-800-TEL-NICB (835-6422) to provide tips on possible illegal practices.

"Here at the Oklahoma Insurance Department, we are committed to protecting consumers, especially those left vulnerable after a fire or natural disaster destroyed their home," said Commissioner John D. Doak. "This partnership with the NICB allows us to spread the word about our anti-fraud efforts and it puts the bad guys on notice."

Following a natural disaster like the wildfires, it is not unusual to see shady contractors or roofers arrive in the area and prey on victims. These "storm chasers" seek a payment in advance or try to get property owners to sign over an insurance claim payment by promising to repair the damages, often at a discounted price. But once they have the money, they disappear after doing inferior work or no work at all.

"We urge people to contact their insurance company and work with them to secure reliable contractors," said Fred Lohmann, southwest regional director for the NICB. "Never sign a contract or make an advance payment to a contractor who shows up at your door. In simple terms, if you didn't request it, reject it."

The NICB's tip line can also be reached by texting the keyword "Fraud" to TIP411, or filling out the tip form on the NICB Web site at www.nicb.org.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $339 billion in insurance premiums in 2011, or approximately 80 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 94 percent ($156 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.

SOURCE National Insurance Crime Bureau