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Chiselers find new ways to bilk people out of typhoon insurance

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The word yakebutori is applied to those who profit from the losses of others following a fire or other disaster. It seems to be a neverending story.

Noting that during the 2020 fiscal year, the number of people consulting the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan regarding troubles over typhoon damage doubled over the previous year, Shukan Post (Oct 8) reports that devious crooks have developed new ways to relive the unwary of their money.

A Tokyo man in his 60s explained how he fell victim to deceptive practices.

"The man I spoke with seemed so helpful, I felt he could be trusted, but got taken for a ride," he said.

"My mother lives alone in the countryside," the victim related. "The roof of her house was damaged by a typhoon, with water leaking when it rained. As a temporary fix, she arranged for a local firm to attach some blue vinyl sheeting at the cost of 100,000 yen.

"Some days later, the same operator said to her, 'You'd be well advised to re-tile your roof. Your disaster insurance can pay for this with no further outlay from your side.' The man added, 'I can handle the paperwork for you.'

"He seemed so helpful and solicitous."

The man's mother proceeded with the job, but unfortunately, no insurance money was forthcoming, and she was presented with a bill for 300,000 yen.

In 2020, the Consumer Affairs Center was consulted by 5,447 individuals who were similarly victimized -- more than twice the 2,691 cases reported in 2019.

"Japan was pounded by several powerful typhoons in 2018 and 2019," Akinori Hikawa, manager of public affairs for The General Insurance Association of Japan, explains to the magazine. "Insurance payouts for Typhoon No. 21 in September 2018 came to approximately 940 billion yen. Afterwards, crooked operators began telling people that they could 'apply for insurance to fix the damage for free' and that they would 'handle the paperwork on their side.'

"But various problems surfaced. Some of their charges went beyond the insurance coverage, and others tacked on fees for 'inspections' that insured people had to pay out of their own pockets. Some people wound up paying as much as half the charges on their own."

"From 2001 onward, insurance policies offering comprehensive insurance became more widespread, which not only covered fire and damage from natural disasters such as typhoons, but also theft," said insurance consultant Shinji Saito. "But the damage from the typhoons in 2018 and 2018 were so widespread there weren't enough damage assessors available, so some companies cut corners on the damage estimates.

"Another problem was until around 2005, customers had been obliged to report damage within 30 days of occurrence. This was considered too short, so it was extended to within three years. But recently crooked operators would tell damage victims they had to file within three months or some shorter period, and then would bill from 30% to 50% of the insurance payout as contingency fees.

"We suppose the rise in claims for 2020 were based on unresolved issues from those previous two years."

Shukan Post lists several types of scams, including excessive charges for damage assessment; overcharging for a breach of contract clause; and intentional breaking of undamaged roof tiles.

"We had always viewed our first purpose as providing funds to assist customers to recover from damages," said Takashi Sasaki, of the planning section of the claims processing division at Sompo Japan Insurance Inc. "I'm concerned that original repairs can't be covered when contractors apply their excessive fees onto the insurance claims."

Some insurance policies, particularly those sold via the internet, may be difficult to cancel. Kumi Akashi, a legal scrivener, advises that when problems arise, people should seek the advice of the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan and be prepared to report any cases of suspected fraud to the police.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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