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Bushfire victims warned about potential scams


House fire

ASIC says fraudsters may pose as tradies or repairers to trick people out of their money

Bushfire victims are being warned of another danger in their path, as opportunistic scammers often strike in the wake of a natural disaster.

ASIC - a government body which protects Australian consumers - issued a statement today explaining how scammers might target homeowners or small business owners.

According to ASIC, scammers may pose as legitimate tradespeople offering to perform repairs or assist with an insurance claim. Typically, they target homeowners, farmers and small businesses.

"They may claim to be able to identify damage to your property, sometimes by way of a free inspection," said ASIC commissioner Sean Hughes. "Be wary of anyone who asks for payment up front and who asks you to sign a contract immediately."

How to avoid being scammed

If you need to make a claim as a result of the bushfires, contact your insurer, broker or financial advisor directly. Do not authorise any tradesperson to make repairs to your home or business before talking to your insurer.

Make sure you understand your insurer's claims process. If you're unsure, contact their helpline and ask them to explain how your claim will be managed. Some scammers may pretend to be working with your insurance company, but if you know exactly what to expect, you're less likely to be tricked.

How to spot a scammer

According to the Insurance Council of Australia, these scammers - sometimes known as "storm chasers" - may go door-to-door in impacted neighbourhoods, claiming to have identified damage to your property. In some cases, they may even claim to have been sent by your insurance company.

They may ask for money up-front, promise to perform the repairs in a short amount of time, or provide a quote which is far below the price quoted by legitimate and trusted tradespeople.

They may also lack insurance or necessary licenses, and may pressure you to sign a contract on the spot.

What if you've already been approached by a scammer?

Anybody who thinks they may have been targeted by a fraudulent tradesperson or repairer is encouraged to contact ASIC. You can also report a scam on the Scamwatch website.

Resources for those impacted by the Australian bushfires

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