Beware of Home Improvement Scams

 

Home improvement season is here and many people are considering sprucing up their homes or repairing damage caused by this past winter’s torrential rainstorms.

While the record-setting levels of rainfall has eliminated the drought throughout most of the state, the excessive amount of water has resulted in crumbling roads/driveways, flood damage to homes, toppled trees and fences.

So, who should you call to get your property in tip-top shape?

Well, not just anybody according to the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB).

Consumers should make sure the person or company they’re hiring to do the repair work has an appropriate contractor license.  Otherwise, the CSLB warns that homeowners could be at risk for fraud by unscrupulous contractors just looking to make a quick buck.

One example of attempted fraud occurred in March (2017).  An elderly Sacramento woman was approached by a group of unlicensed contractors from Texas. The woman said the group told her they had seal coating left over from another job and would offer her a “great deal” to pave her driveway.

CSLB said the woman wrote $16,000 in checks to two of the women in the group, but she later stopped payments after having second thoughts. Investigators worked with the woman to bring the suspects back to her house to collect a new check.

When 58-year-old Christine Nevils and 50-year-old Sandra Costello arrived at the house, they were arrested. The CSLB said they could possibly face charges of grand theft, burglary, theft by false pretenses, elder abuse and contracting without a license.

“With heavy rain around the state this winter, it’s especially likely other groups of transient criminals are out there,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “Always be wary when someone shows up uninvited at your front door and says they’ve got a ‘great deal’ with leftover materials.”

Another scam that has been garnering lots of attention recently involves consumers getting a phone call from a repair company. The service technician informs the homeowner that they are overdue for an annual cleaning and tune-up of their furnace and have a “special offer” they should take advantage of. The representative may ask for a credit card number and other personal information.

CSLB maintains that consumers should never release any of their personal information over the phone, especially to a company they are not familiar with.

To help prevent consumers from becoming victims of contractor fraud, the CLSB has provided the following list of “red flags” homeowners should be aware of prior to hiring any contractor.

  • No CSLB-issued contractor’s license.
  • Unsolicited offers to do seal coating, paving, roofing, or painting.
  • Claims of leftover materials.
  • High pressure sales or scare tactics.
  • Reluctance to sign a written contract.
  • Demand for payment in cash or checks written to individuals or their spouses, rather than to the business.
  • Brand new vehicles, large pickup trucks with a large tank on the bed or pulling a trailer, dump trucks, or other heavy road construction equipment with out-of-state license plates, no plates at all, or obscured license plates.
  • Toll-free or out-of-state telephone number.

You can check the status of a contractor’s license by either calling the Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-CSLB (2752), using its Instant License Check feature or logging online to www.cslb.ca.gov.

 

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