Fraudulent smoke and ash homeowner claims spread with wildfires, Mercury Insurance says

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Mercury discovered a growing trend of criminals falsifying homeowners’ fire insurance claims.

LOS ANGELES, July 15, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Mercury Insurance Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the insurance CSI, has discovered that a large number of fraudulent claims have been reported for smoke and ash damage by the same public adjuster – a red flag that illegal claims were being filed.

“When we checked our policyholders to see how we can help them and make sure we’re keeping our promise to be there for them, many were unaware that a claim had been filed on their owner’s policy,” said Pete Galassi, head of Mercury Insurance’s Special Investigations Unit. “Some professional entities don’t care about the harm they can do and will use trickery to take advantage of law-abiding owners in vulnerable situations.”

The public adjuster promised homeowners “thousands of dollars” free of charge through a variety of persuasive sales pitches that included claims of a state government program. Homeowners were ‘tricked’ into believing they would receive money for smoke and ash claims from insurance companies who distributed money on behalf of the state of California to property owners affected by smoke and ash damage.

In other cases, bogus public surveyors asked homeowners to sign a document allowing them to inspect their home to take “soil samples”. The signed documents were a Letter of Representation and a Settlement Agreement. Many owners did not speak English and did not understand the documents they were signing. A public pundit went so far as to send flyers to homeowners, fly planes with banner ads, and go door-to-door for signatures.

“Our landlords’ elderly parents were tricked into forging the landlord’s signature on the Letter of Representations and Settlement Agreements without their knowledge or understanding of what they were signing,” Galassi said. “Other policyholders were lied to by the public adjuster when they said the claim would not be filed on their insurance policy or affect their insurance premiums.”

Galassi has advice for policyholders:

  • Do not sign any document that you do not understand and do not give anyone information about your insurance policy;
  • Do not allow a stranger to inspect or work in your home without fully understanding their purpose and expense;
  • Check suspected government programs first with government officials before signing any documents; and
  • If you have questions about claims that can be filed, call your insurance agent directly.

About Mercury Insurance

Mercury Insurance (NYSE:MCY) is a multi-line insurance company offering primarily automobile, home, tenants and commercial insurance through a network of independent agents in Arizona, California, Illinois, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginiaas well as auto insurance Florida. Mercury underwrites other lines of insurance in various states, including business owners and auto, landlord, home-sharing, ride-sharing, and mechanical protection.

Since 1962, Mercury has been providing customers with exceptional value for their insurance dollar by combining ultra-competitive rates with excellent customer service. Mercury earned “A” grades from AM Best and Fitch, as well as first place in the 2021 JD Power U.S. Insurance Digital Experience Study.SM and four consecutive “Best Auto Insurance Company” awards from Insure.com. For more information, visit www.MercuryInsurance.com or follow the company on Twitter or Facebook.

SOURCE Mercury Insurance

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