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Lilac Fire victims warned about unlicensed contractors, scammers

VISTA, Calif. -- State officials say they are cracking down on unlicensed contractors and scammers looking to take advantage of Lilac Fire victims.

“If it’s just one scam artist preying on one family, that's too many. We are robustly deploying resources into the area. We're talking to residents so they understand we’re here," California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said outside the assistance center set up for victims at the Vista Library.

Bonsall resident Sandra Haas believes she was contacted by scammers right after the fire swept through her neighborhood.

“I noticed we were getting emails and texts offering services to the fire victims for a discount," said Haas.

Authorities have spent the past couple of days posting warning signs where homes have burned.

“We are looking for unlicensed contractors who are operating during a natural disaster. When a state of emergency has been declared it is, in fact, a felony and the District Attorney's office is aggressively prosecuting these crimes," said Deputy District Attorney Sherry Thompson.

State officials say there are basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Victims should ask contractors to see their license and make sure it’s the right classification.
  • Any job more than $500 in labor and materials must be done by somebody with a state license.
  • Beware of contractors asking for money up front.
  • According to state law, a downpayment to a contractor is $1,000 or 10 percent, whichever is less.
  • Homeowners who sign a contract have up to seven business days to cancel it.

More information can be found here.