Just in time for a renewal of hurricane season, along come the scammers. You have to admit, this time they aimed high by impersonating Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier himself. These emails were first brought to everyone’s attention on September 8, but as with all scams the news rarely gets to the people it needs to. To break it down, having the Insurance Commissioner send you a notice of cancellation is a little like having McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook ask if you want fries with that. It’s not what the Office of Insurance Regulation does, and it’s certainly not in the commissioner’s job description. You should not click on any links, reply to, or call any telephone numbers in these emails – and you should not ever give out any personal or financial information.

It’s not the only scam out there. Hermine brought a sharp uptick in AOB frauds, with shady attorneys and firms descending on the affected counties to convince homeowners to sign away their rights to their insurance claims and even control of repairing the damages to their homes. In Taylor Country, door to door scammers impersonating FEMA officials started shaking down people for $150 bucks a pop to file a claim when filing a claim is free. Learn how to spot scams and protect yourself – and your home.

  1. If you have damage – CALL YOUR INSURANCE AGENT. This is number one for a reason. It’s the top way to scam-proof yourself.
  2. Work with licensed contractors who carry appropriate insurance, and ask for the contact information for their last three jobs.
  3. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away, never sign anything you have not read and understood in full, and never sign a contract with blanks that the contractor says will be filled in later.
  4. Get a written estimate of the work needed, materials cost, estimated time to completion, guarantees for the work, and what you will be expected to pay and when.
  5. DO NOT PAY IN FULL before the work is started or even before completion, and never sign a completion document before the work is finished and inspected.
  6. Google that! You’d be amazed what you can learn from a simple search.
  7. Never provide any private financial information to anyone. Pay the bill as appropriate, but do not consent to anyone having your credit card or access to your checking account.
  8. If you are confronted by people arriving on your doorstep claiming to be from utility companies, from your insurance company or claiming to have been hired by them, or claiming to be from FEMA or another state, federal, or local agency, ask for their ID. All of these entities issue ID cards that are to be presented on demand.
  9. And if they ask for money up front, it’s 100 percent certain that it’s a scam.

Your insurance agent is your best defense against scammers. When in doubt, call and find out before you take a hit from a scammer.