Disaster chasers prey on flood and storm affected homeowners


News release

Friday, 18 June 2021

Insurers are urging householders in flood and storm ravaged areas of regional Victoria to identify and report disaster chasers to government authorities or police. 

Media reports today state that following last week’s destructive winds, rain and floods, disaster chasers have started door-knocking damaged homes, seeking to exploit vulnerable householders. 

Reports state that disaster chasers are offering tree and debris removal for which want to be paid upfront in cash but leave without doing the work or the work is poorly done or not completed. Disaster chasers can also offer to undertake home inspections or repairs for cash payment.  

These operators may not have a building licence, trade qualifications, professional indemnity insurance or an ABN. In the past some have been known to use standover tactics to demand money and they may falsely claim they have been sent by an insurer. 

Some disaster chasers pressure the householder to sign a contract for repair work on the spot and may promise that the insurer will pay for all work. This can leave the customer with an inflated bill or commission to pay, because insurers will only pay for approved work that is covered by a policy.   

Identifying disaster chasers and reporting them to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will help bring them to account. And if they threaten, harass or intimidate anyone, police should be notified immediately. 

Tips for identifying and dealing with a disaster chaser: 

  • An insurer will not send a tradesperson or builder to your home without notifying you and providing you with details  
  • Speak to your insurer before agreeing to any repairs or rebuilding work to make sure your insurer will cover the work 
  • A tradesperson or builder who is working for your insurer will not ask you for payment 
  • If in doubt, ask for identification such as a builder’s licence or driver’s licence, and ring your insurer to check 
  • If you sign a contract with a disaster chaser, you have a statutory 10-day cooling-off period. Your insurer can help you end the relationship with the disaster chaser 

Insurers have received more than 15,700 claims from this event, with an estimated cost of $144 million. With several areas not yet accessible to assessors, insurers expect claims to rise in coming days.  

Quote attributable to Andrew Hall, CEO: 

Unfortunately, disaster chasers can emerge soon after a natural disaster and target householders who have been affected.  

They can leave families, the elderly and vulnerable Australians much worse off, with large bills and homes that remain badly damaged.  

The ICA urges anyone who is approached by a disaster chaser to call the relevant authorities.  

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