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State warns of scam artists in fire zone

September 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Now that the Station Fire is no longer threatening homes, the process is underway to rebuild the dozens of houses it did destroy. But you want to be careful to avoid scam artists. Eyewitness news provides ways to help you weed out the good contractors from the bad. A team of workers from the Contractors State License Board board fanned out in the Angeles National Forest in the Tujunga area, posting signs near homes destroyed or damaged by the Station Fire.

Close to 90 homes were lost in the devastating wildfire that raged through mountain communities and scorched more than 160,000 acres.

Now, there is concern that unlicensed contractors and scammers will try to take advantage of homeowners.

State insurance investigators teamed up with the CSLB visiting properties and leaving information packets for residents.

"We distribute materials from our consumer services division and it advises them of their claims, procedures, what they can expect during their claim procedures, advises them about what to look out for unlicensed contractors, public adjusters, things like that," explained Larry Lay from the State Department of Insurance.

The Contractors State License Board offers advice for homeowners planning to rebuild or repair their houses.

  • Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license
  • Don't hire the first contractor that comes along, especially if they show up uninvited
  • Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed
  • Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
Contractors who perform work in a natural disaster area without a valid license could face felony charges.

Homeowners are urged to use the available resources to do their homework.

Officials say it takes only minutes for a homeowner to use the CLSB website to check out a contractor's licensed status and history.

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