‘They know where the money is:’ Fraud could cost Florida homeowners, carriers billions

Agents currently investigating 35 contractors statewide

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nearly three dozen contractors with a criminal past have started a door-to-door campaign to Florida homes damaged by Hurricane Ian, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

NICB CEO David Glawe said his agents have already tracked 35 companies with a history of fraud operating in Florida and that number is expected to grow.

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“These are criminal enterprises,” Glawe said. “They know where the vulnerabilities are, they know where the money is.”

The target is the insurance benefits paid to cover the losses in what was nothing short of a catastrophic weather event for much of Florida.

The latest insurance data shows roughly 310,440 insurance claims reported in the state of Florida, including 121,440 automotive claims and 189,000 home and business claims.

The NICB estimates insurance fraud and crime could cost carriers and homeowners anywhere from $3 billion to $6 billion.

For context, of the $80 billion in government funding appropriated for reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina, it is estimated that insurance fraud may have accounted for as much as $6 billion, or 7.5% of the total cost, according to the FBI.

The NICB team is comprised of retired FBI agents and law enforcement officers, trained to investigate and testify in court.

Glawe said the NICB uses “specific data sets” that utilize past criminal activity and complaints to track the insurance criminals operating on the ground.

“We’re similar to the FBI in insurance crime and identify the indicators for fraud and/or crime activity that’s based on victims’ reporting as well as our partnership with Florida,” Glawe said.

Because the investigations are still active, Glawe was unable to share specific information about the companies.

“We have the names and addresses and limited liability corporations,” Glawe said. “There will be an influx of criminal actors and we will prosecute them when we find them.”

If you want to check the background of a contractor and to make sure they are properly licensed and insured, go to MyFloridaLicense.com. If you have an issue with contractor, you can email makeendmeet@wkmg.com.

Here are key points to remember as you navigate insurance claims after Ian:

  • Have an insurance company evaluate damage before arranging repairs to ensure that the work will be covered under a policy;
  • Get at least three written, itemized estimates on bids or repairs;
  • Watch out for unsolicited offers or contractors claiming to perform repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job;
  • Research a company and its reputation—look for references online, or ask a friend.

For more information go to nicb.org.

To find a Florida-licensed contractor to help with post-Hurricane Ian repairs, go to DCNOnline.org. This is a free service, founded in part by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

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About the Author

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.

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