Because “In Your Corner” is about accountability and transparency, I wanted to share details about the responses I’ve received to last week’s debut column.
Rest assured, it’s been a tremendous response.
Readers sent some 50 inquiries and ideas by phone, email and online. We received great tips and questions on a wide range of topics — from fire safety, housing and environmental health to governance issues and victimization of the elder community.
There is a lot to go through and many leads to follow that will take some time, but we take each query seriously and appreciate each person’s effort to call or write in.
To start out, though, there are a few trends that popped up—namely, people who say they’re weary of getting the runaround or being ripped off by banks, car companies, lenders and contractors. To some, we shared resources that could be helpful, and I thought the rest of the community might benefit, too.
If you’re dealing with a business that failed to deliver, used false advertising, won’t honor a guarantee or is sticking you with undue bills, filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org/file-a-complaint/) can help you get your complaint resolved.
When it comes to contractors in particular, you can see if they are licensed or you can file a complaint (whether they are licensed or not) with California’s Contractors State License Board (cslb.ca.gov/).
You can also reach out to your city or county consumer protection offices.
There have been reports of contractor and construction fraud in the region as part of recovery efforts in the aftermath of wildfires, so it’s good to keep a few things in mind:
- Write and sign a contract.
- Make sure you have any contractor or business’ full contact information.
- For home improvement jobs, under California law, a down payment cannot exceed either $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract price (whichever is less).
- If someone is part of a scheme to defraud a consumer in relation to providing repairs caused by a natural disaster, they could be required to make full restitution to the victim and pay a major fine among other consequences.
Last week, I also wrote about how to watch out for fake COVID-19 testing sites that have been popping up across the state, according to California’s attorney general.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not provide data, but the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker provides a small window into the trend. Though incomplete because instances are self-reported, there is evidence of a nationwide uptick.
The database shows 12 reports of suspect COVID-19 testing operations in the first 10 months of 2021 versus 82 complaints since last November.