State investigators try to protect quake victims from insurance, contractor scams

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ByVic Lee KGO logo
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
State warns of insurance fraud post-Napa quake
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State agencies are sending fraud investigators to Napa to warn residents about unscrupulous contractors and insurance adjusters.

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- As the city of Napa goes into recovery mode, state agencies began sending in its fraud investigators to warn residents about unscrupulous contractors and insurance adjusters. The first place they hit was the mobile home park which suffered serious damages from Sunday's earthquake.

Investigators for the state's Department of Insurance and the Contractors State License Board, or CSLB, reached out to residents whose units were damaged or destroyed by the quake and fire. Four homes were in rubble and 35 others needed significant repairs.

Investigators spoke to resident Patti Fry who'll be looking for a contractor. "We're here to make sure you're not victimized twice," one investigator told her.

Fry told ABC7 News that she will definitely be reviewing all the handouts she received from the investigators. The handouts she is referring to warn residents about contractors who ask for large down payments or those without workers' compensation, which make homeowners liable if those workers get hurt on their property.

VIDEO: Napa Valley Mobile Home Park gets services restored

Miguel Bernal's unit was hit hard as well. It was listing in the front with extensive damage in and out. He has other concerns as well -- his mobile home was just sold. "They're supposed to close escrow on September 3rd," he said, adding that it is unlikely to go through now.

Josephine Taylor was almost a victim of a contractor scam after the Loma Prieta quake in 1989. She hired a contractor who placed concrete blocks underneath her unit, saying it had moved on one side when it had not. The contractor first quoted her for $2,000 but said it would $5,000 later. Taylor became suspicious and called the police, who came and arrested the man.

"Unfortunately, when a disaster like this happens, unlicensed and unscrupulous people swarm in and take advantage of these people. They're looking for easy money to make," said Rick Lopez with the Contractor State License Board.

Ironically, in Taylor's case, the reinforced blocks she got for free after the last quake, may have spared her home from any damage this time.