Officials warn explosion victims of scams

Officials are warning the San Bruno fire victims to watch out for scam artists trying to take advantage of explosion victims.

September 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
San Mateo County and state officials are warning the San Bruno fire victims to watch out for scam artists trying to take advantage of you as you rebuild, as authorities have already seen some cases.

In a press conference on Thursday, the California Department of Insurance said that they will use their police powers to arrest contractors who are not licensed.

Scott and Connie Buschman have a house in need of some fixing up and definitely a coat of paint to remedy the bubbles caused by the intense heat out here last Thursday evening. The house may also need a little foundation work

"We are going to ask for a home inspection to make sure that our foundation is OK. Looks like our house shifted just a hair or a little cement over there, Connie Buschman said.

They've received a sheet of advice from the state department of insurance on what to do and a list from PG&E on who to do it with.

But the city of San Bruno's initial property damage estimate at $31 million is certainly an enticing amount for scam artists ready to swoop down for an easy and dishonest payday.

That's why the San Mateo County district attorney, San Bruno Police, the California Department of Insurance and the Contractors State License Board are warning fire victims not to be victimized again.

They're warning scam contractors -- don't even try it.

"We've got a concerted enforcement effort and we have already conducted sweep operations. We'll be ongoing with those as well as undercover sting operations in this area. So if you try to come into this area and do work without a license, you are potentially going to face a felony charge," Rick Lopes from the Contractors State License Board said.

"We want to make sure that there is appropriate insurances so that it doesn't fall on the homeowner again to be libel for any injuries or liabilities for their behalf," Rick Plein from the California Department of Insurance said.

The effort to educate fire victims and to protect them from unscrupulous contractors is another effort much appreciated by the Buschmans.

"Yeah it's great to let us know that we are not going to get ripped off by someone who comes to fix the house," Connie Buschman said.

If you are going to be doing more than $500 worth of construction work in the area of the explosion, you have to have a contractor's license or risk an arrest.


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