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Be leary before you sign: Officials warn of scams

As Southwest Florida rebuilds after Hurricane Ian, officials are concerned about scammers and con-artists
Scam Alert.jpg
Posted at 7:37 PM, Oct 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-10 19:37:11-04

As Southwest Florida recovers and rebuilds after Hurricane Ian slammed into the area, there are warnings about contractors ripping off customers.

The Better Business Bureau says so-called “imposter scams,” where a con artist poses as a legitimate government or charity worker, are a big concern.

“Anyone who knocks on your door claiming to be a legitimate agency and they’re being really aggressive in what they’re asking, maybe it’s a utility worker needing your social security number, that’s gonna raise a red flag,” said Bryan Ogelsby with the BBB of West Florida.

Last week, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests of two contractors.

30-year-old Hector Mendez was found in violation of the state of emergency curfew, according to deputies.

A search of his record found a fully extraditable warrant out of Louisiana for residential contractor fraud.

He was placed under arrest and taken to the Charlotte County jail.

On Friday, Deputies arrested Terence Duque, a roofing contractor, for allegedly working in Charlotte County without a Florida license.

According to Sheriff Bill Prummell, Duque told investigators “that an employee had made contact with the (Department of Business and Professional Regulation) and that the representative had given him permission to conduct business in Florida.”

Deputies say that was not the case.

“Ignorance is not an excuse,” Sheriff Prummell said in a statement.

“If you are in Charlotte County, doing business with the people of this community, you had better be on the up-and-up and have the appropriate licensing and insurance. These people have been through enough, and I will not allow unlicensed contractors to further victimize them.”

There’s also a warning from insurance experts about a state law that could end up costing customers thousands of dollars.

Assignment of Benefits, or AOBs, have long been a part of Florida’s insurance marketplace.

An AOB allows a third party, like a contractor, to file on your behalf and get payment directly from your insurance company.

AOBs do allow for a more streamlined process, as the contractor can deal directly with the insurance company, but they also open the door for fraud.

“Contractors have been known to file claims on your behalf for work they didn’t do or work you don’t need,” said Mark Jenkins with AAA.

“This ultimately can lead to lawsuits. It could ultimately lead to your claim being denied or your premiums going up. Be very careful about Assignment of Benefits forms.”