A couple weeks ago we wrote about a growing problem – contractors using “assignment of benefits” to hijack consumer water claims. This alarming trend is finding its way to the roofing industry. Just last week the Department of Financial Services (DFS) announced the arrest of five NBRC Roofing Company employees for allegedly organizing a $525,000 insurance fraud scheme.
According to a press release from the DFS, the scam involved “visiting homeowners following a storm, convincing the homeowners roof repairs were necessary, helping the homeowners file insurance claims for repair and finally convincing the homeowners to give NBRC the sole right to make the repairs and the assignment of benefits for the insurance claim. But once NBRC was paid for insurance claim, the repairs would not be completed and the insurance money would be pocketed by NBRC employees.”
This is just another example of why assigning the rights to your insurance claim to a third party is a bad idea. When you sign a contract which contains an “Assignment of Benefits” (words to the effect of ‘I transfer and assign any and all insurance rights, benefits, and causes of action under my property insurance policy’ to the contractor) you sign the rights to your claim and any monies for your damage to that contractor in exchange for the contractor fixing the problem. If you disagree with how the contractor handles the repair or the amount charged you have given up your right to resolve the issue with your insurance company.
According to the DFS the below defendants were arrested in relation to this case:
- Frank Martin Pureber, Apollo Beach
- Carlton D Dunko, Tampa
- Stacy Lynn Dunko, Tampa
- Joel Samuel Deserio, Tampa
- Alexander Josue Gomez, Riverview
Additional arrests are expected to be made of the following individuals:
- Eric Shane Johnson, Bradenton
- Christopher Michael Rios, Brandon
- Benjamin Zebulon Matthews, Lakewood Ranch
The cases will be prosecuted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution.
How can you prevent this from happening to you?
- Call your insurance company first when you have a claim: they can help you partner with a reputable contractor and help explain what an “Assignment of Benefits” really means.
- Read any document you’re asked to sign: a contractor should only require you to sign a work authorization so if you see the phrase “Assignment of Benefit” do not sign.
- Unsavory contractors are especially prevalent after big storms when many Florida homeowners report damage. To avoid being a victim, prepare in advance by keeping a list of trusted contractors. Your insurance company may also be able to recommend experts. ASK THEM FIRST. It is to both your benefits to get quality work done at a reasonable price.