There were 28 separate disaster events last year, totaling more than $93 billion in catastrophe losses. Upwards of 10 percent or $9.3 billion is lost to post-disaster fraud, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

The fraud-fighting agency is working to educate home and business owners about how to avoid becoming a victim of deceptive contractors as part of its annual Contractor Fraud Awareness Week (CFAW).

The campaign runs from May 20 to May 24, 2024.

“Contractor fraud costs hardworking Americans billions of dollars every year,” said David J. Glawe, president and CEO of NICB.

“After a natural disaster, fraudulent contractors work to exploit the vulnerabilities of unsuspecting homeowners with the promise of affordable renovations, repairs, or construction projects that leave behind a trail of broken promises, shoddy workmanship, and depleted savings,” he added.

The NICB offers tips to avoid contractor fraud:

Research and Verify: Before hiring a contractor, research their credentials, reputation and track record. Check for licenses, certifications and reviews from previous clients. Verify their insurance coverage and inquire about any past complaints or legal issues.

Get Multiple Quotes: Obtain bids from multiple contractors for comparison. Be wary of significantly low bids, as they may indicate substandard work or hidden costs. Aim for a balance between affordability and quality.

Beware of Red Flags: Be alert to red flags such as high-pressure sales tactics, vague or evasive answers or reluctance to provide written estimates or contracts. Trust your instincts and proceed with caution if something seems off.

Written Contracts: Always insist on a written contract detailing the scope of work, materials, timeline and a payment schedule that does not include large upfront payments. Review the contract carefully, ensuring that all terms and conditions are clearly outlined and agreed upon by both parties.

Stay Involved: Stay actively involved in the project by regularly communicating with the contractor and monitoring progress, while keeping records of all work communications.

Seek Legal Advice if Necessary: If you suspect contractor fraud or encounter significant problems during the project, seek legal advice promptly. A legal professional can help you understand your rights, explore options for resolution, and take appropriate action to protect your interests.