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CA Department of Insurance

Lilac fire survivors warned of scams artists and unlicensed contractors

News: 2017 Press Release

For Release: December 14, 2017
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Email Inquiries: cdipress@insurance.ca.gov
Lilac fire survivors warned of scams artists and unlicensed contractors
Commissioner invites agencies to join anti-fraud disaster task force to protect residents
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Law enforcement officers from California Department of Insurance (CDI), the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office (SDDA) canvassed neighborhoods scorched by the Lilac Fire to warn residents of the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors, as they begin the recovery process. Residents were also warned to be on the lookout for scam artists trolling the area.

Following reports of disaster fraud in the North Bay fire area, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced additional efforts to help consumers by forming an anti-fraud disaster task force to focus on crimes targeting vulnerable fire survivors. Jones is inviting a number of allied agencies, such as CSLB and the SDDA to work with CDI in optimizing resources to dissuade fraud and investigate allegations of scams in the disaster zones.

"This is ground zero for protecting wildfire survivors and we are taking a stand against disaster fraud," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "I have directed the Department of Insurance to deploy our law enforcement officers to protect wildfire survivors from fraudsters and scam artists. We are working with our partners at the Contractors State License Board and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, and I invite other allied agencies to join our Anti-Fraud Disaster Task Force."

CSLB, CDI and the SDDA detectives and investigators met with homeowners warning them to hire only California-licensed contractors for repairs or to rebuild their homes or businesses and provided residents with educational materials to help them make smart choices. CSLB also warned unlicensed contractors that if they're caught trying to contract without a license in the disaster area they could face felony charges. A CSLB-issued state license is required for any construction job of $500 or more (labor and materials).

"CSLB, along with local and state agency partners, including the Department of Insurance and San Diego County District Attorney's Office will be aggressive in looking for those trying to take advantage of fire survivors," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "Sweeps operations have already begun in the fire-affected areas, and we won't hesitate to go undercover and conduct sting operations should that become necessary."

Residents should also know, public adjusters are restricted from soliciting business from residents until seven days after evacuation orders are lifted. Before hiring a public adjuster, check the department's website to ensure their license is in good standing and make sure you get multiple references from former clients. Consumers that have any difficulty with their insurer will find the department's consumer services team stands ready to assist at 800-927-4357.

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Media Notes:

CDI has resources available to help wildfire survivors

Don't Get Burned Twice
b-roll of officers canvassing neighborhood
Full video from announcement with Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Contractor State License Board, and the San Diego District Attorney's office. 

CSLB urges everyone to follow these guidelines before hiring a contractor:
  • Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed;
  • Don't hire the first contractor who comes along, or sign over any payment checks from your insurance company; 
  • Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their plastic CSLB pocket license and a photo ID;
  • Get bids from at least three licensed contractors, and don't necessarily take the lowest bid, especially if it's much lower than other bids;
  • Always check the license number on CSLB's website at www.cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, and contact the business directly if you have any questions;
  • Get three references from each bidder, and view their previous work in-person;
  • Get your contract in writing;
  • In most cases, in a disaster area you have up to seven business days to cancel your contract without penalty;
  • Get more tips at www.cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com.  


The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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