A group called the Consumer Protection Coalition (CPC) is warning Florida homeowners and insured drivers to beware of Assignment of Benefits (AOB) scams this hurricane season. The warning coincides with the launch of a new series of digital ads.
“This hurricane season, Floridians need to be aware of AOB abuse and not become a victim,” says Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which spearheads the coalition. “As we saw last year with Hurricane Irma, major storms attract scam artists seeking to make money off hardworking Floridians. With this hurricane season expected to be an active one, anyone who sustains damage should call their insurance company first before signing an AOB.”
An AOB allows homeowners who have property damage to sign over their insurance benefits to a third party. The third party then makes repairs and charges the homeowners’ insurance companies directly. Many homeowners do so because it makes the process easier, and it’s a fair process if the contractor is honest.
However, AOB also presents an opportunity for scammers to step in and take advantage of homeowners.
The CPC’s new ads warn consumers to think twice before signing an AOB if they suffer damage from a storm. Homeowners do not need to sign an AOB to start repairs and should be cautious of vendors who pressure them or refuse to do the work unless they sign one.
Unscrupulous home repair vendors and trial attorneys can profit off homeowners who lose control of their insurance policy once they sign the AOB. The vendors can inflate the cost of claims and file lawsuits against insurance companies that dispute the bill. Beyond damage to the individual homeowner, that also pushes the cost higher for all property insurance policies in Florida.
Tips for avoiding AOB abuse:
- Call your insurance company first to report losses.
- Hire only licensed, reputable companies and be wary of strangers who contact you by calling or knocking on your door asking for personal information.
- Review all documents before signing and ask questions so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to do. Ask who is responsible for paying the vendor – you or your insurance company.
- If you suspect fraud or suspicious activity, call the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services Insurance Consumer Helpline at (877) 693-5236.