Auditor warns of frauds in hail-damage repair

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By: Derek Hann

Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale and other members of the Auditor’s Office spoke to community members and insurance agents from the region about hail fraud prevention and answered several other questions regarding insurance in a stop in Havre Thursday.

“What we are trying to do is get the insurance industry, the contracting industry, the adjusting industry, all these folks together to hear what is going on and make sure that you are sharing information with the consumers,” Rosendale said. “Because, at the end of the day, the consumers are the ones that are dramatically impacted … and they are the ones that are controlling all the contractual agreements.”…

He said that he and other members of the Auditor’s Office are going around the northern section of the state because of the high number of hail storms and hail damage experienced in the region over the past several decades, such as the July 4, 2015 hail and windstorm, which caused millions of dollars of damage to the area.

He added that “bad actors” or contractors, adjustors or insurance providers who take advantage of people do not follow the laws and, through the workshop, his office is trying to make sure the “good actors” are able to educate the consumer and the process can move smooth…

Deputy Insurance Commissioner Bob Biskupiak said his guiding principle is how to take care of the customers. He asked people who were at the workshop first what went right and what went wrong about a major hailstorm July 4, 2015…

One of the main concerns that was brought up during the meeting was the large number of out-of-state contractors or “storm chasers” who came to the area and did either low-quality work or were scamming customers and further damaging the customers’ homes.

Several members of the group also said the “bad actors” were also falsely informing their customers on contracting bids, even encouraging them to unknowingly commit insurance fraud.

Fraud Investigator Cheri Meier of the Auditor’s Office said that the definition of insurance fraud is an oral or written statement containing false, incomplete or misleading information for payment or other benefits, such as a contractor inflating claims to hide deductibles, in support of claims. She added that insurance fraud is now within administrative and criminal codes, and for an action to fall under the criminal code the department has to have proof of intent.

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