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State Insurance Officials Warn Of Scams After Silver Fire

BANNING ( — State insurance department officials are warning residents affected by this month's Silver Fire near Banning to avoid potential scams as a result of the disaster.

The blaze, which broke out last Wednesday, burned 20,292 acres, caused injury to 11 firefighters and one civilian and destroyed 48 structures.

State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Wednesday the deployment of fraud detectives and the Investigation Division's Disaster and Recovery Team (DART) to help educate residents about potential scams that target wildfire victims.

The teams have coordinated with the Riverside County Sheriff and other allied agencies to assist residents by distributing fliers and booklets with tips to avoid scams, insurance fraud and solicitations by unlicensed contractors and insurance adjusters.

"Our teams have dealt with disasters and know how overwhelming recovery can be for fire victims," said Insurance Commissioner Jones.

"Taking time to speak with residents and answer individual questions about insurance, unlicensed contractors, and the scams that prey on homeowners can help calm nerves and head off potential rip-offs."

Department of Insurance fraud officers are canvasing the four affected neighborhoods in a door-to-door effort to speak directly with residents in Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Snow Creek and lower Cabazon.

In the next few weeks the department's Premium Fraud Task Force will focus its enforcement activities on preventing and identifying potential scams.

The Department of Insurance advises residents to report any suspicious activity, including contractors and insurance adjusters that do not provide a current license, demand large deposits, or pressure them into signing contracts.

Consumers should also call the department if they believe their insurer is not being responsive or handling their claim appropriately. Consumers are advised to contact the department's consumer services team toll-free number at (800) 927-4357.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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