Chicago — Following severe storms in Illinois on Thursday, Attorney General Kwame Raoul today warned Illinois residents to be on alert for scammers looking to exploit homeowners and business owners who may need repairs from storm-related damage.
Raoul cautioned residents that scammers often move quickly into communities to take advantage of people with damage to their homes or businesses. Raoul noted these “storm chasers” use the opportunity to pressure people into making quick and often expensive decisions about cleanup and construction work.
Raoul also warned residents that scam artists may be operating as public adjusters who offer “free” inspections to submit a claim to property owners’ insurance companies.
“We too often see scammers take advantage of the devastation caused by severe weather and use it as an opportunity to line their own pockets,” Raoul said. “As residents begin assessing damage and making repairs, I encourage people to use the resources provided by my office, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and other reputable resources to ensure they choose a trustworthy contractor. People should be wary of any individual who solicits home repair or insurance adjusting services door to door.”
Raoul said general contractors are not required by state law to be licensed, but municipalities may require permits or have other local requirements. Home and business owners should check with their local governments for more information about permits or other local requirements before hiring anyone. Public adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), and roofers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).
“In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, it can be hard to know where to turn for help. Fortunately, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation stands ready to protect the public from bad actors in these difficult times,” said Mario Treto, Jr., Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. “My thoughts are with all those impacted by yesterday’s storms, and I encourage anyone seeking roofing repairs to visit our website and use our License Lookup tool to ensure that the roofer is licensed and in good standing with the Department before entering into an agreement.”
Raoul offered the following tips to help families and businesses avoid dishonest contractors:
Raoul also reminded consumers that the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act requires contractors to provide customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor. The law also requires contractors to carry at least the minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet entitled “Home Repair: Know Your Rights.”
Raoul encouraged residents and business owners to call local law enforcement agencies and his office’s Consumer Fraud Hotline (1-800-386-5438 in Chicago, 1-800-243-0618 in Springfield, and 1-800-243-0607 in Carbondale) to report any suspicious activity.