From: Harvey bring out flood insurance scammers, clarionledger.com
Flood insurance is one of the most misunderstood types of insurance, and scammers are taking advantage of that fact to make money off victims of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies are warning that residents of south Texas and Louisiana have reported getting robocalls saying their flood insurance premiums are past-due, and they need to pay right away to avoid a lapse in coverage.
This type of predatory behavior happens frequently after major floods, but given the size and scope of the unfolding devastation from Harvey, it’s likely many people will be taken in by this scheme. And as the storm moves east and north, it’s likely Mississippians will be getting such calls, too. FEMA warns homeowners not to fall for it. If you are really behind on your flood insurance, an automated phone call in the middle of the disaster won’t be your first notification.
“Insurance companies and agents selling flood insurance policies do not use this process to communicate with customers about their flood insurance policies,” noted a FEMA blog post. “In fact, if your payment is past due, your insurance company will send you several pieces of mail 90, 60, and 30 days before the policy expires.”
The institute notes that only about 12 percent of homeowners have flood insurance today, the lowest number since 2010, and down 14 percent from 2015. “Furthermore,” notes the organization, “the number of people buying NFIP policies nationwide has plunged by 549,000 — almost 10 percent —since 2009, even as coastal development surges and sea levels rise.”
According to data on FEMA’s website, the average U.S. flood insurance claim is about $43,000, with the average homeowner paying $700 annually for premiums. (Some are much higher, depending on the area in which you live and the risk.) To get an idea of the history of flood events in your county, you can use an interactive map at https://www.fema.gov/data-visualization-floods-data-visualization.
And if you get a call informing you that your flood insurance policy has lapsed and you need to pay immediately, FEMA advises you hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 or obey other instructions. Once you’ve done that, contact your insurance agent to check the status of your policy (if you have one), or call (800) 638-6620 if your policy is through NFIP Direct.
To find out more about flood insurance, visit https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.