How to Avoid the Con Game After a Disaster

California is in the middle of fire season. Already this year, thousands of acres have burned and hundreds of homes and structures have been damaged or destroyed, leaving some facing the huge task of rebuilding and trying to salvage what was lost.

Fortunately, having to rebuild after a disaster is not something that’s done everyday. Unfortunately, scams run as rampant through disaster areas after the fires as the flames did while the fires were burning. Fake contractors and cons are counting on the shock of the emergency and the desire to rebuild as soon as possible to take the money and run.

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Signs posted by CSLB staff at the Erskine fire in Kern County warn consumers and cons alike. The fire damaged approximately 250 structures. —Photo courtesy of CSLB

Little do the cons know they are being watched—by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). CSLB is one of the first state agencies to arrive on the scene after a natural disaster, meeting with consumers and providing them with educational materials and information that will help them spot and avoid a scam. Besides in-person meetings, CSLB posts signs around the disaster area like the ones in the photo above, warning consumers to check the license and telling unlicensed contractors that they are not welcome.

CSLB utilizes many different methods to assist disaster victims, including public service announcements for local television and radio stations, undercover sweeps and sting operations, participating in local assistance centers, and more.

Consumer information and assistance is also available in many different formats on the CSLB’s Disaster Help Center. There, consumers can access audio podcasts, watch the CSLB video Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster, and access several different publications dealing with disasters and scams, and tips on how to choose a contractor. The website also hosts one of the most important tools for consumers—instant license check. Consumers can also check the license and obtain information by calling CSLB’s toll-free number, (800) 321-CSLB (2752).

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