home-improvement scam
Illustration: Sara Ghasletwala
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The Scam

You hire a repairman to fix a cracked pane in your bay window, but he points out the entire unit could use replacing. He confides that there’s a way to get a whole new window free and for him to get paid at no out-of-pocket expense to you. All you do is file an insurance claim saying a windstorm caused irreparable damage. Then, if you hand over the settlement, he’ll reimburse your deductible.

How Not to Get Taken: “This is one of those situations where the contractor doesn’t say, let’s defraud the insurance company, but it’s understood,” says James Quiggle, a spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. “Wink-wink, nod-nod schemes happen all the time, and they can slip through the cracks, especially if the damage isn’t so great that the insurance company would send an adjuster to do an inspection.” But making even a small fraudulent claim is foolish, says Quiggle. At a minimum, you risk future premium hikes if it’s approved. If the scam is exposed, however, your policy will be cancelled and you’ll be subject to criminal prosecution. Then you could find yourself in jail, with plenty of time to ponder why on earth you decided to replace a window that wasn’t broken.
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