State Contractors Board Warns Consumers About Traveling Criminals Posing as Contractors
SACRAMENTO — The warmer weather is bringing more than spring flowers to California residents. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is issuing a "Consumer Alert" to warn residents about suspicious solicitors offering door-to-door home improvement services. A number of suspects have already been spotted in several areas of the State. "These groups or families come into California when the weather gets better" said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands, "That's when they can better peddle their phony roof repairs, driveway asphalting or tree trimming services."
Members of the CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team tracked one family group all the way from San Diego to Los Angeles this past week. They caught up with them finishing up a paving job at a Church. Law enforcement officials were able to impound a trailer and a number of pieces of paving equipment. saving the Church at least $6,000.
In another case, CSLB investigators working with Brawley Police arrested a 23-year-old Oklahoma man on charges of working without a valid contractors license and using someone else's license with intent to defraud. He allegedly sold a paving deal to a local car dealership then raised the price an additional $5,000 when it came time to pay. (It is illegal in California to work without a contract and without set prices.)
The bands of fraudulent home repair workers are often members of extended families that move from town to town, scamming residents. They usually target the elderly or recent immigrants who are likely to have savings in the bank or cash on site and may not understand what is being sold. They will knock on a business or homeowner's door and offer to perform work with material they claim is left over from another job. After a deal is struck the scam artists perform substandard, useless, or even destructive work. They quickly move on, often before the victims know they've been defrauded, and are difficult to find.
The CSLB urges consumers to be wary of transient solicitors and to watch for these "red flags":
- Door-to-door solicitations
- Unsolicited offers to do painting, roofing or paving work
- Claims of leftover materials
- High pressure or scare tactics
- Reluctance to sign a written contract
- Demand for payment in cash
- Brand new vehicles and out-of-state license plates
- A toll-free telephone number, instead of a local number, as a contact
Consumers who think they have come in contact with individuals matching the above description should download a complaint form from the CSLB Web site www.cslb.ca.gov and before returning it - write in big letters "PAVING SCAM" at the top. If you see someone you believe may be one of these transient contractors download a Hot Lead Referral form from the CSLB Web site ("Unlicensed Activity") and fax it to us immediately to the closest location. This may help us find them before they can move on. You can learn more about these door-to-door scams by reading our Traveling Contractor Scams Tip Sheet.
"These roving individuals have also been known to distract homeowners while an associate slips inside and takes cash and valuables. Don't let anyone in your home or yard unless you have checked them out," said Sands "Ask to see their "CSLB pocket license" then look them up on the Contractors Boards website to see if they have a valid license."
Consumers can get information from the CSLB at www.cslb.ca.gov or at (800) 321-CSLB (2752). The Contractors State License Board, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses approximately 278,000 contractors in California and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against licensed and unlicensed contractors annually.
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