Business Scams & SWIFT Enforcement

Have you ever played “Whack A Mole”? If so, you can understand some contractor’s frustration with people trying to scam them. As soon as one scam is exposed another pops up to take its place and waste more of your valuable time. With every recession, these types of con games seem to multiply like moles. A contractor’s only protection, or ‘mole hammer,’ is awareness of these frauds which is why my readers are now forewarned…

Q: I received a mailing from a company that looks to be from the Contractors Board. Can you tell me if this is legitimate? I’m concerned because it looks like someone got access to my license application that I sent to the Board two weeks ago.

A: A few weeks back I warned my readers about an OFFICIAL CONSUMER ALERT from the Secretary of State entitled: MISLEADING BUSINESS SOLICITATIONS. The newest ‘con’ is from a company that is soliciting applicants applying for a contractor’s license. The mailing looks to be from the CSLB (IT’S NOT) and only asks for the applicant’s phone number. It appears they had access to your confidential application but I have been assured they didn’t.

Until a few years ago, the CSLB would list an applicant’s phone number as part of the public record on its website. They received complaints about deceptive solicitations, so they ceased publishing the number online, which resulted in a substantial decrease in unsolicited calls. Now you can see why some companies want your phone number even if it means misleading you into giving it to them.

Q: Can I perform the related electrical work on a conveyor system with my “C-61”/”D-21” classification?

A: “Related” is the key word. As long as the electrical is part of the conveyor project then the answer is YES. This would fall under the incidental and supplemental provision of B&P Code Section 7059(a).

I would like to publicly thank the Santa Barbara Contractors Association (SBCA) for the opportunity to speak at their monthly breakfast on September 10th. It was a pleasure interacting with the 60-70 members in attendance. Among the topics discussed were: unwritten CSLB polices; Home Improvement contracts; B&P Code 7031; advertising guidelines for contractors; Limited Liability Companies (LLC); additional classifications with an exam waiver; and what the CSLB is doing to combat unlicensed activities.

As it relates to that final topic, a bill recently passed by the State Legislature would give the Board another weapon in its ongoing battle to curb unlicensed activities. AB 370 (Eng) is on its way to the Governor’s desk and, if signed, would increase penalties for repeat offenders. Existing law makes it a misdemeanor for a person to act in the capacity of a contractor without having a license. A 3rd or subsequent conviction is punishable by a fine or by imprisonment in the county jail or both. This bill would REQUIRE that a 3rd or subsequent conviction be punishable by BOTH a fine and imprisonment in a county jail.

Further, at a recent CSLB meeting in Sacramento, the Enforcement Unit reported on a number of successful sting and sweep highlights conducted by The Statewide Investigation Fraud Team (SWIFT). On one occasion, a SWIFT Enforcement officer was interviewing a contractor in a residential area when he noticed some suspicious activity at a nearby residence. The “landscapers” were carrying a hammer and pry bar rather than the more traditional shovel and wrench, so they were questioned. These would-be robbers were scared off after being asked to produce a contractor’s license number. A description of the two men and photo of the truck were provided to the local police by SWIFT investigators.