DAVIS COUNTY -- The winds are gone in Davis County. A lot of damage remains, and there is now a new concern: scam artists. The state's top watchdog is telling homeowners to look out this week, after a would-be scammer showed up on her street.
The experts will tell you after natural disasters like the one that hit sections of Davis and Weber Counties, that bad guys come out of the woodwork looking to take advantage. This warning is about not only scam artists but contractors that aren't licensed.
Francine Giani is the head of the Utah Department of Commerce and oversees consumer protection. She tells us the neighbors usually push the door-to-door salesmen her way. Well … similar deal. A man showed up in her neighborhood Saturday offering to help clean up, only he didn't have a license on him.
"I said ‘I don't think you're a licensed contractor,' and I said ‘I happen to work for the agency that licenses contractors, so you may want to pick a different area. But I don't think you want to stop here in Centerville for sure.' So he drove off," said Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce:
Tips for how to avoid becoming a victim
Be cautious of people that show up at your front door and tell you, "I'm in the area just for today." "I can perform the work for you really cheap," "You have to decide NOW."
2. Always ask to see a copy of his or her contractor's license. Utah law requires all contractors to be licensed. You can also call the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to check if a person is a licensed contractor in Utah at (801) 530-6628, Toll-free in Utah (866) 275-3675 or check on line at www.dopl.utah.gov
3. Ask for references of people they have performed work for previously, call those references.
4. Get a written bid. Then phone other licensed contractors to compare material and job costs.
5. Always get a written contract from the contractor. Often people are deceived by work performed on a vague understanding.
6. Make payment out to the name on the contractor's license. Never to an individual.
It's something that's being echoed on this street in Bountiful. The work in Davis County may simply be too difficult for a fly-by-night crew to take care of.
Not only does Total Tree Care have a license, it had repelling gear and all kinds of sophisticated equipment to handle a huge tree that had fallen against a house.
"A lot of times they can get over their heads and get in a situation where the consumer's not protected, or where people are over-billing or over-charging and taking advantage of people in a bad situation," said Mark Malmstrom, who works with Total Tree Care.
Here's a case in point: Malmstrom says if a worker gets hurt trying to clear trees from your property and his company isn't insured, it's on you. Consumer protection is warning people to watch out for workers who claim to just be in the area for the day and say that you have to decide right then.
Investigators are also warning people to beware of anybody asking for cash up front. Using a card does leave a paper trail. Additional good advice: ask to see a copy of the contractor's license, ask for references, get a written bid and a written contract and make the payment out to the name on the contractor's license.
We have talked to multiple police agencies as well. Not many reports of problems yet, but the anticipation is there will be people this week out here looking to take advantage of unsuspecting folks.