State insurance officials in Bryan Co. to discourage fraud after devastating tornado

BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) – Fraud is a big concern for state officials in the aftermath of the tornado damage as many people look for where to turn for help.

This is the time, they say, when scam artists look for an opportunity to rip off people in need.

Georgia’s Insurance Fire Safety Commissioner John F. King is expected to be in the Ellabell area this afternoon with a team of about 5 to 10 people who are going door to do, he said.

In a phone interview this morning, he said his team decided to earlier than they have in the past to storm damaged areas to help spread the message.

“My biggest worry now is obviously stopping any additional damage or loss of life, but also making sure that we protect those affected, keeping them from being re-victimized by fraudsters because this is a very common thing we see at this time. We are on a race at this point against scammers and fraudsters,” Commissioner King said.

They are expected to arrive around 2pm today and expect to be here for the next couple of days to spread the word.

King’s team is wearing official placards so they can be easily identified, he said.

While the team will help assessment damage, their focus is to educate the public about how to avoid being a victim of fraud once they begin cleanup and rebuilding.

“Don’t rush and sign a contract. Make sure you understand who you’re working with,” Commissioner King said. “If at all possible, deal with someone in your local community who you know and trust. And when in double call our agency to verify someone’s ability to do the job or are sanctioned by insurance companies.”

If you have storm damage, the commissioner offers up these tips to avoid fraud.

  1. Your first call should be to your home insurance carrier to make an initial claim
  2. Do not sign a contract to remove trees or begin repairs unless you have multiple bids and have checked the company’s credentials.
  3. Do not sign over your insurance rights to allow someone else to file a claim on your behalf.
  4. If you have questions or issues filing an insurance claim, call the the Insurance Commission’s Consumer Services Division. The phone number is 800-656-2298 The phone lines are open Monday throgh Friday from 8 a.m. until 5pm

If you suspect a scam or a fraud – call local law enforcement immediately to report it.

You can also report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. The number to call is 800-869-1123.

Commissioner King explained the reason his team moved so quickly to be in Bryan County is because of what they saw happen in Coweta County last August when an EF4 tornado devasted the community.

He said his office saw a lot of fraud reports and they’re wanting to prevent that from happening in Bryan County.

Copyright 2022 WTOC. All rights reserved.