Clinton Smith empties a wheelbarrow of waste from his flood damaged property at Hermit Park. Picture Lachie Millard
Clinton Smith empties a wheelbarrow of waste from his flood damaged property at Hermit Park. Picture Lachie Millard

Townsville flood victims warned of scammers

INSURERS are concerned scammers and storm chasers are active in North Queensland and might be trying to con or mislead flood victims.

The Insurance Council of Australia says it has received several reports of fake tradespeople door-knocking and offering to conduct building inspections and repairs.

Meanwhile, Townsville resident Kathleen Church said she had received a suspicious call from someone saying they were calling about a recent insurance claim and a text purporting to be from Woolworths wanting to contact her about a rewards program.

Ms Church said she hung up on a person who sounded "like an Indian gentleman", while Woolworths told her they were not sending the texts.

"There's going to be a lot of vulnerable people who have lodged claims. I'm concerned particularly for vulnerable people."

Insurance council spokesman Campbell Fuller said scammers offered special cash deals and often picked vulnerable targets, such as elderly homeowners.

"Scammers may pretend to be a kind-hearted tradie, or a builder or an assessor sent by an insurance company. They take cash and leave the job unstarted, unfinished or badly done," Mr Fuller said.

"Insurance companies will never send an assessor or builder to a customer's home without first notifying them. A builder or tradesperson sent by an insurer to undertake repairs will never demand payment from the householder for the work being undertaken.

"If a consumer has any concerns, they should ask for identification and contact the insurer for confirmation. Scammers should be reported to local police.

"Home and business owners who needed repairs should contact their insurer before commissioning any work, even for emergency repairs. Unauthorised work may not be covered by the policy."

The insurance council advised policyholders who may be contacted by storm chasers or so-called claims advisers to be wary and speak to their insurer before signing an agreement.

Mr Fuller said claims advisers would approach flood victims and offer to handle all claim activity between the homeowner and their insurance company in return for a hefty fee.

"They may promise to negotiate a better deal. However, the use of a claims Adviser should be considered carefully and with full transparency _ the same as for any service or tradesperson," he said.

"Claims advisers usually do not secure better outcomes for customers than they could have generated themselves."

Before engaging a claims Adviser the customer should:

Ensure they understand the adviser's fee structure and any commissions, in particular how this may influence the advice and services they provide, including the time taken to resolve a claim;

Inquire whether using the claims Adviser might further delay a positive outcome;

Check the Adviser has appropriate professional indemnity insurance and holds relevant building licences, and request to see proof;

Make sure their agreement with the claims Adviser is clear regarding the services they will provide, including timelines and targets for having the claim settled. The customer may choose to seek independent legal advice before signing an agreement;

Insurers will not usually pay a customer's costs for the engagement of a claims Adviser.