We have all heard or read about unlicensed contractors who scam the elderly. I recently read an article from the Contractor’s State License Board’s (“CSLB”) website pertaining to this subject matter and quite frankly, it broke my heart. As our beloved parents and other family members age, they unfortunately become easy targets for these shameful villains. The senior population is rising more rapidly than ever and they control a large percentage of the nation’s liquid assets. Additionally, seniors are more vulnerable to fraud and deception due to cognitive and physical limitations.
Legitimate contractors are being deprived of billions of dollars in work because of these unlicensed con artists. Many of these scoundrels are illegally using other contractor’s identities and license numbers.
The mere thought of being accused of elder abuse is horrific enough, but it does happen. To avoid being thrown into this shameful category of crooks, licensed contractors can avoid any type of elder abuse allegations by having all of your ducks in a row. Here are a few tips:
1. First and foremost, when doing business with seniors, be respectful and do not rush them.
2. You may want to suggest that they have another family member present when going over any documents, i.e., your written contract. Yes, make certain you have a written contract and make sure they understand it.
3. Present to them your pocket license and photo identification, and also recommend that they check with the CSLB to verify your license and that it is in good standing. (www.cslb.ca.gov).
4. Do not ask for more than what is standard, that is, 10% or $1,000.00, whichever is less, as a down payment and by all means, do not take cash from them.
5. Continue to toss around in your head “How would I want a contractor to treat my loved one?”
Not only is law enforcement cracking down harder than ever on elder abuse scams, but the CSLB is as well. The CSLB offers Scam Stopper Seminars and actually has a “CSLB Most Wanted List”. It is a great source of information for the education of not only seniors, but the general public.
We can all help in the fight against elder abuse. Bottom line, if you know of someone (loved or not), who has been a victim of elder fraud, please urge them to report it to the proper authorities.