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As we come together to keep our families and our community safe, it is important to remember that there are some unsavory profiteers willing to take advantage of this vulnerable time. Below are five common crimes that happen after a tragedy:
It is illegal for people to raise costs more than 10 percent from the price charged immediately before a state of emergency has been declared. This includes essential goods and services such as: food items, goods and services used for emergency clean-up, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, storage services, and gasoline. Under Penal Code section 396 price gouging is a misdemeanor that includes a sentence up to one year in jail and a fine up to $10,000. A state of emergency was declared by the Governor on March 4, 2020. Click here for news releases regarding price gouging.
Not all charities are legitimate, so be careful when giving. Check out the organization first, or give to known charities. Don't give money to people soliciting over the phone or going door to door. If you want to help, look up the number for a charity and call them. Be alert - even GoFundMe pages can be fraudulent. Make sure you know exactly to whom you are donating.
Not every contractor has a license and not every licensed contractor is honest. Be careful who you hire. Check with the Contractors State Licensing Board at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/ and the Tri-County Better Business Bureau at https://www.bbb.org/santa-barbara. If legitimate problems arise with the quality of products or services, stop making payments until the problem has been resolved.
It is a crime under Penal Codes section 550 to make material misrepresentations to an insurance company regarding work performed or the cost of work performed. Make sure you know what bills are being given to your insurance carrier. If you can, review all bills for accuracy before sending them to your insurance company. If you are not using a contractor provided by your insurance, do not allow contractors to submit bills directly to your carrier.
Haul Away Crimes
Some home debris contains hazardous materials that need special handling and cannot be placed into a landfill. Asbestos, often found in insulation, drywall, and tiles, is a common material that has special clean up requirements. Be careful when contracting with someone to perform home clean up. Untrained haul away companies can put themselves and your families at risk.
If you suspect you have been the victim of one of these crimes, click here to contact us or call Investigator Cliff Williams at (805) 662-1737.
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