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Posted on August 4, 2014 | 3:28 p.m.

Williams Hosts Seminar in Goleta on Senior Scam Prevention

Source: Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios for Assemblyman Das Williams

Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, hosted a seminar on senior scam prevention in Goleta on Friday.

The seminar was in conjunction with the Contractors State License Board. A panel of experts from various governmental agencies provided attendees with valuable information about fraud and what to do if they become victims.

Seniors are a vulnerable audience, often preyed upon by unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors. In addition to providing information about construction-related scams and how seniors can protect themselves when hiring a contractor, the seminar featured expert speakers from the Bureau of Automotive Repairs, District Attorney’s office, and State Controller’s office.

“Seniors are the fastest growing segment of California’s population," Williams said. "It is absolutely crucial that we keep them apprised of the latest financial scams threatening them, so they can be prepared to identify these thieves and their tricks.”

Scams are rampant and often target vulnerable seniors. Typical scams involved home improvement and repairs, landscaping, automotive repair, finances, insurance, Internet and telephone solicitations, Medicare, and foreign lotteries. Unfortunately, seniors who live alone or are lonely tend to trust friendly scam artists who step in to provide false emotional support.

The Contractors State License Board gave attendees tips on how to make sure a contractor is not a scammer, including checking a contractor’s license number online by clicking here or by calling 800.321.2752, getting at least three bids, don’t let payments get ahead of work, don’t make the final payment until you are satisfied with the job, and never pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less.

When it comes to automotive repair, the Bureau of Automotive Repair recommends reading and following your owner’s manual, selecting a repair shop before you need one that is registered with BAR, and know your rights as a consumer. If something is wrong with your vehicle try to pinpoint the symptoms before taking the car in for service. Look for unusual sounds, odors, leaks, warning lights, or smoke, problems in handling or braking, and changes in performance. As the consumer you are entitled to a written estimate for repair work, a detailed invoice of work done and parts supplied, and the return of replaced parts if requested at the time a work order is placed.

The State Controller’s Office warned attendees about emails from individuals who claim to work for the State Controller. The State Controller does not send out unsolicited emails about unclaimed property. The controller strongly recommends that you do not response to these false solicitations, as the senders are seeking personal information that will charge fees for recovering property that you can obtain for free by searching online by clicking here.

The National Center on Elder Abuse and the U.S. Census reports that only 1 in 25 cases of elder abuse is reported in California. Since most criminals who perpetrate financial exploitation are not apprehended, the best response is to teach people how to protect themselves.

Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios is the district director for Assemblyman Das Williams.

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