Contractors State License Board Warns Central Valley Consumers about Traveling Criminals Posing as Contractors
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has issued a consumer alert about a contracting scam that is sweeping through the Central Valley and may be active in other parts of the state. There have been a number of recent cases in the Fresno area that center around phony asphalt or paving services.
One elderly woman was trying to withdraw $15,000 in cash to pay a contractor, when an alert bank employee tipped off authorities. It is believed this organized group has peddled its services to dozens of Fresno area residents and may have more victims. The suspects have used the names of: Boswell, Charlie's Asphalt, Cal Form Paving or Davis Paving. They may have already moved on from Fresno to other parts of the state or even to neighboring states.
The group's method is to knock on a property owner's door or just yell from their truck as they drive through a neighborhood offering 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 before the victims know they've been defrauded. 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 at home and may not understand what is being sold.
"Be very wary of solicitors offering door-to-door home improvement services," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "These people have no reservations about taking advantage of the elderly, churches or other trusting individuals for their own profit."
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, dump trucks, hauling trailers with 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 contact CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) immediately. For Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego, call the Norwalk SWIFT Unit at: (562) 345-7600. For all other counties in California, contact Sacramento SWIFT Unit at: (916) 255-2924.
"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 it up on the Contractors Board's Web site (www.cslb.ca.gov) to see if they have a valid license."
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors is available on the CSLB Web, or by calling 800-321-2752. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 314,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2006-07, the CSLB obtained nearly $45 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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