By Michael YEGHIAYAN
Local senior citizens gathered at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA last Thursday afternoon to hear a senior scammer presentation hosted by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, the California Contractors State License Board and ASTER (Assisting Seniors Through Enhanced Resources). The event offered a wide range of information designed to help protect seniors from various types of fraud and scams.
“You have worked really hard,” said Gatto, “too hard for someone to come take your money.”
In hiring a contractor, the CSLB urged residents to exercise caution and to only work with state licensed contractors for any job over $500. The organization also advised those in the market for a contractor to seek out at least three bids for a job, avoid down payments of over 10% of the work, and avoid prepaying work before it is completed.
Jane Kreidler, a representative from the CSLB, spoke out against contractors who try to exploit homeowners by offering them extraordinary savings. She warned that, oftentimes, those who knock on a homeowner’s door offering services are not licensed.
“A good general rule of thumb: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” explained Kreidler. “Your home is your castle, it’s a huge asset. When it comes to your home, don’t necessarily take the lowest price.”
The risk of utility fraud was also discussed with residents who were warned that modern scammers are able to manipulate phone identification systems, fooling the victim into thinking they were being contacted by a legitimate utility employee. Customers are asked to pay bills over the phone, which then provides the perpetrator with their financial information. Residents were reminded that Glendale Water & Power never asks for financial information over the phone or solicits enrollment in low-income or residential programs.
John Roldan, representing the California Public Utilities Commission, offered advice for residents trying to avoid fraud over the phone. These scams include “slamming” and “cramming,” which amount to attempts at changing a person’s current service and adding unnecessary features to their existing service. People are encouraged to closely examine their home phone bill for unwanted services.
“If you spot anything, immediately call your local phone company,” said Roldan. “Call the company, and if you run into problems call the CPUC.”
The CPUC also covered a number of other scams executed over the phone including convincing a victim that the caller is a family member in need of money.
In addition to discussing fraud, the event offered seniors valuable information from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, along with advisement from the California Health Advocates.