Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

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November 30, 2012

Unfamiliar insurance company soliciting Decatur County

Greensburg — Carl Becker lives in far-eastern Decatur County, almost to the Franklin County line.

He depends on a cistern for his home water needs, so he was surprised when he recently received a solicitation from HomeServe USA Repair Management Corp, a company specializing in “Complete Coverage and Quick Repairs For Home Emergencies” (www.homeserveusa.com).

More specifically, the company offers insurance policies to homeowners to cover home plumbing, electrical and heating/cooling emergencies.

Becker’s letter offered the retired homeowner a policy for “Water Service Lines.”

Such lines, according to Greensburg City Engineer Gary Murray, run underground from each homeowner’s water meter in the front yard to the home itself. The lines, Murray explained, typically are the homeowner’s responsibility to repair and maintain, and not the responsibility of the respective county or city water municipality.

Becker knows of several other Decatur County homeowners with cistern or well water who’ve also been solicited.

He added that, whether HomeServe is legitimate or no, he believes the company is irresponsibly sending out random letters in an effort to get people to “send them money.”

“A letter like this makes me uncomfortable,” he said. “I’ve lived here 10 years and have never received anything like it. I’m certainly not going to send them money, but then again, I know exactly what kind of water I have and how everything works.”

“A lot of people don’t and when they get a letter like this,” he continued, “they might sign up without checking things out or looking for other options. I suspect older people would probably be especially susceptible.”

The Daily News reached out to both GPD Police Chief Stacey Chasteen and Decatur County Sheriff Greg Allen to ascertain if they were familiar with HomeServe and whether they had information regarding the company’s legitimacy.

Both were familiar with HomeServe’s solicitation letters, but neither was aware of fraudulent activity by the company.

Chasteen referred the Daily News to Greensburg Mayor Gary Herbert, explaining that the mayor had recently sent an email memo informing all the city’s department heads about the company’s solicitations.

In a brief phone interview, Herbert confirmed the email.

“I sent the email because I want people to be aware of this,” he said. “They’ve been sending these letters for several years now — in the fall and spring, when water leaks are at their worst. I’m not aware of any fraudulent activity by HomeServe, but people who receive these letters get the impression this company is working with the City of Greensburg, selling these policies on our behalf.”

He added, “Let me be clear: I have never spoken with anyone from HomeServe, and the city of Greensburg is in no way affiliated with them. We don’t sell any kind of product like this and neither do we partner with anyone who does.”

Like Chasteen and Allen, Herbert advised any homeowner considering an insurance policy like those sold by HomeServe to first do their research and be certain both the company and its products are legitimate.

The Daily News visited the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) website (www.bbb.org) to check for complaints against the company and placed a phone call to HomeServe itself.

HomeServe is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). More, over the last 3 years, the BBB has received 256 complaints against the company.

The BBB’s website states: “BBB has received complaints from consumers across the country concerning this business’s direct mail solicitations; specifically, that the solicitations’ layout may cause consumers to perceive the letters as coming from the consumers’ utility companies and not an independent business selling home warranty or insurance coverage.

BBB also received customer complaints concerning coverage issues, specifically that when a problem occurred, it was not covered by the policy.”

Additional information about HomeServe is available by searching the BBB website at www.bbb.org or by visiting www.homeserveusa.com.

In a brief phone interview, Charlee Wiggins, a HomeServe customer-service representative, told the Daily News the company has been in business since the 1950s and is a multi-state operation.

Wiggins confirmed that HomeServe likely wouldn’t offer coverage for a cistern-based system like Becker’s.

When asked why the company would mail a solicitation to a homeowner with cistern-based water, Wiggins replied, “We didn’t know that he had that [cistern-based water]. If he had called, we would’ve handled it. We’re just trying to get more people to join our company; so we’re just trying to send out [solicitations] to people, and it will show them what we offer.”

Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.

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