Mercury Insurance’s special investigations unit has discovered fraudulent claims reported for smoke and ash damage all filed by the same public adjuster.
The public adjuster promised thousands of dollars to homeowners in vulnerable situations without any out-of-pocket expense on their part, sometimes referring to a state government program as part of their “sales pitch”. Homeowners were then led to believe they would receive money for smoke and ash claims from insurance companies who were handing out cash aid on behalf of the state of California.
In other instances, homeowners were asked to sign a document to allow inspection of their home and collection of “soil samples”, when in fact the signed documents were a letter of representation and settlement contract. Many homeowners were not native English speakers and could not understand the documents they were signing.
Another modus targeted the parents of policyholders.
“Elderly parents of our homeowners were duped into forging the homeowner’s signature on letter of representations and settlement contracts without their knowledge or understanding what they were signing,” said Mercury Insurance SIU manager Pete Galassi. “Other policyholders were lied to by the public adjuster when told the claim would not be filed on their insurance policy or would not affect their insurance premiums.”
Galassi reminded policyholders not to give their policy information to anyone, sign documents they did not understand, allow strangers to inspect their homes without understanding the purpose and fee, and to verify alleged government programs with officials first. Most importantly, call your insurance agent directly if you have questions on claims that can be filed, Galassi said.