Beware of Fire Damage Chasers

Fire Damage Restoration

Emergency restoration organizations are predominantly run by conscientious professionals who are sympathetic to the plight of their customers.  Unfortunately, there are predatory practitioners eager to exploit victims of disaster that are a pitfall to recognize and to avoid.  Such behavior is most prevalent when armies of malcontents known as ‘fire damage chasers’ solicit property owners, often before emergency crews have extinguished the fire.

Duplicitous Fire Damage Restoration Practices

Underhanded emergency restoration organizations often work in tandem with duplicitous public adjusters to obtain commitment from homeowners oblivious to their deceit.  Such unscrupulous agents, known as solicitors, identify their prey by monitoring emergency response radio frequencies.  They rush to the scene of burning buildings and attempt conscript acquiescence from unsuspecting property owners under duress.

Fire chasers enlist a litany of cunning practices to secure fire damage restoration projects in the confusion of the moment.  They subscribe to LexisNexis, a service that compiles public records, to determine ownership and acquire comprehensive contact information. They mendaciously offer ‘free’ services, as a hook used to snag a signatory’s attention.

They enlist a family member or neighbor’s acclaim for a fee, whereby the ‘trusted’ individual falsely alleges a longstanding relationship with the malcontent and highly recommends their services. This deception is designed to lull the homeowner into a false sense of security and to contractually consent to the care of a predator.

They often offer to waive the insurance deductible, a bargain constituting insurance fraud. Joining such a cabal could trigger a fraud investigation whereby the insured may be subject to felony prosecution. Additionally, a contractor who offers to waive your deductible will undoubtedly be making up the difference by cutting corners or using lower quality products.

Competition Leading to Violence

The practice of fire chasing allows the offender to circumvent expensive and time-consuming marketing efforts to acquire valuable emergency restoration contracts. This shortcut to financial success often eliminates competition from reputable emergency restoration professionals not willing practice this deceit. What remains is an aggregation of likeminded malcontents in a downward spiraling competition for a single prize.

Multiple unaffiliated onsite solicitors attempting to gain audience with a single principle has given rise to documented physical confrontations between rival contestants. Strongarm tactics have become the norm, with the worst offenders hiring professional MMA fighters to not only solicit victims of fire, but also intimidate or physically eliminate competitors.

Longstanding feuds have developed between emergency restoration organizations participating in this practice, resulting in ongoing confrontations.  Clandestine practices that include professional sabotage, vandalism, intimidation, and even suspected murder have been the outcome of conflicts between fire chasing organizations.

Primarily Motivated by Money

In the unfortunate event of fire and/or smoke damage to your property that has involved the authorities, fire chasers are likely to be on location attempting to make contact. Individuals and organizations that monitor municipal radio frequencies, arrive amongst the chaos of a fire by design. Such unprincipled behavior allows the fire chaser to leverage the shock and bewilderment of the moment as a catalyst to obtaining contractual obligation.

Motivated only by financial gain, fire chasers use underhanded tactics to circumvent fair market practices, which indicates an unscrupulous character. If fire chasers are granted audience, practiced pitches will be delivered that stress an urgency to start the job.  The reasoning being that they have crews at hand, so it stands to reason that they be hired on the spot to begin the recovery.

Our blog article CLEANING SMOKE DAMAGE confirms that immediate action is warranted as smoke and soot residues will cause ongoing damage until removed. Properly vetting service providers, however, supersedes the necessity for immediate action. Enlisting the services of ethical fire damage restoration professionals with your best interests as the primary consideration is essential to successful fire damage restoration.

Handling Fire Chasers

Aggressive methodologies are prevalent amongst the legions of unsolicited fire chasers vying to obtain a single contract.  Tactics bordering on criminal behavior ensues as competition to win the fire damage restoration project intensifies. Violent reprisals have been documented and recorded amongst competing entities.

Caution is recommended when confronted by a fire chaser seeking employment.  Accept their business card and provide a cordial response without commitment to the fire damage restoration services offered. Unceremonious rejection may be construed as inflammatory and illicit an aggressive response. Discretion is the best approach to these forceful encounters.

Hiring for Fire Damage Restoration

Immediate attention to fire and smoke damage restoration will arrest ongoing deterioration of the structure by removing harmful residues and deodorizing salvable surfaces. However, municipal authorities, and insurance policy coverage constraints demand that the site be left largely undisturbed until investigations are complete. Ultimately, this could require days or even weeks until the fire damage restoration project can begin in earnest.

Until this time, emergency restoration crews will only be permitted to complete the few tasks required to secure and stabilize the property. Such tasks can include exhausting lingering smoke, emergency board up, and possibly non-invasive structural drying. Urgency is therefore constrained by investigatory protocol, which eliminates the fire chaser’s credibility regarding the necessity to hire on the spot.  Properly vetting potential service providers trumps the necessity for immediate action.

Due diligence when hiring a fire damage restoration company is of the utmost importance. Several investigatory avenues can be leveraged when scrutinizing potential candidates; including customer reviews, Better Business Bureau rankings, criminal background checks, personal intuition and recommendations from trusted parties that are not materially interested in the outcome.

Insurance Company Affiliated Contractors

Our blog article RESTORATION COMPANY CHOICE & INSURANCE COMPANY ABUSE outlines the trickery perpetrated by insurance providers upon their customers to foist insurance company affiliated contractors upon the unsuspecting insured. This constitutes a conflict of interest as the contractor is beholden to the insurance company, not to the property owner. The following excerpt will shed some light on this cheat; however, a deeper understanding of the ploy can be attained by reading the aforementioned article in its entirety:

Often referred to as a “Preferred Contractor Network” or “Preferred Service Provider (PSP)”; insurance companies entice the property owner with ‘time saving’ assurances, meaningless warranties and boasts of screening that is rudimentary at best. This business-to-business relationship with preferred restoration contractors is a subtle and effective tactic used to instill a sense of trust and confidence that in reality is a manipulation to control claim settlements aimed at saving insurance companies millions of dollars. Preferred vendor programs are a vehicle by which insurance companies limit payouts; such behavior amounts to insurance company abuses, the property owner being the ultimate casualty.

The insurer’s main goal is cost savings, therefore the scope of work is likely to be inappropriately less than what is required. Entering into an agreement with an insurance company affiliated contractor constitutes a conflict of interest and will pose many of the same problems one would experience by hiring a fire chaser. Enlisting contractors who are not held captive by insurance companies and their cost containment priorities is essential to a satisfactory outcome. If you have filed a fire damage claim it is highly recommended that you do not allow the insurer to determine the scope of work as opposed to a trained and qualified professional restoration contractor.

Property Recovery 911 – The Right Choice

Property Recovery 911 emergency service providers are extensively trained in fire damage cleanup in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.  Our IICRC certified and insured technicians are on call 24/7. We can be on site within 1 hour ready to begin the recovery process, while keeping you well informed throughout the fire and smoke restoration process.  For prompt professional service, contact us at (267) 808-7200, we will bring your home or business back to pre-loss condition as quickly as possible