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Preventing Scams

Recently, we were made aware by a property owner of a scam where a backflow tester attempted to report the property owners well as non-functional in order to garner thousands of dollars in fraudulent repair and replacement costs. In actuality, the property owner's well was fully functional and working properly.

Each year, thousands of property owners in California are solicited by unlicensed and/or unscrupulous solicitors, vendors and/or contractors who promise deals, which sound too good to be true. Most of the time, they are, and all too often, the complainant is defrauded out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Some of the questionable tactics a consumer should be on guard against are:

DON'T accept a solicitor’s, vendor’s and/or contractor's advertising or word as proof of being legitimate or of possessing a current, valid contractor's license. Check with the Contractors State Licensing Board and/or the Better Business Bureau.

DON'T respond to "scare tactic" door to door salesman who say they were just driving by and notice a problem with your roof, driveway or utilities, and they just happen to have extra time and material on their truck.

DON'T make major or full advance payments to the solicitor, vendor and/or contractor for purchase of materials for your job site. Con men will often do superficial defective work, or even no work at all and never return. You then might encounter major bills to correct the damage or problems left behind.

DON'T supply solicitors, vendors and/or contractors with credit card or other personal credit information on promises of free inspections, services or gifts.  

DON'T accept the first price or bid that comes along, especially on major construction or remodeling projects. Be skeptical of bids or prices that are much lower than others obtained. Be sure all bidders possess current contractors’ licenses for the type of work to be performed.

DON'T assume that even if a solicitor, vendor and/or contractor is licensed that you will get what you pay for and be protected. Occasionally, even licensed contractors develop financial difficulties, have employee or credit problems, or fail to keep their license current.

DON'T allow solicitors, vendors and/or contractors to have access to your home or property without a prior appointment, and without having first verified the solicitors and/contractor's name, the name of the business, the company's current contractor license number, and the name of the person who will be sent to your home to do the work.

DON'T judge a book by its cover. Many con men depend upon their victim's being fooled by their friendly, professional appearance or confident approach.
They may also take the other approach of attempting to intimidate or threaten people into signing contracts or making payments.  

DON'T forget that you are the customer. That means that you may also be a target for a fraudulent scheme or theft.  

Remember there is seldom a case where a property owner needs to sign a contract immediately.  A solicitor, vendor and/or contractor who tells you that the work must be done right away, for your family's or your own safety, is probably trying to force an immediate sale, or is perpetrating a fraud.  If you are told, or believe you have an emergency, such as a gas leak, or a serious electrical problem, call your local fire department or public utility company.


Additional Info. from the Chief

Safety experts agree that the best way to deal with crime in the home is to take every step possible to prevent it from happening to you. Every person should know – at the very least – basic yet important crime prevention tips that will keep you and your family more safe and secure. 
The Atherton Police Department has on staff trained “CPTED” personnel – “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” who can conduct a home inspection and give you tips for securing your home, valuables, and even how to directly connect your alarm system to us at no charge. 
If you would like a home inspection completed – please contact Community Services Officer Erica Johnson to schedule an appointment via email – ejohnson@ci.atherton.ca.us or via telephone at 650-752-0549.


Ed Flint,
Police Chief

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