SACRAMENTO, CA - After conducting eight undercover stings that netted 100 arrests throughout the state last week, the California Contractors State License Board is teaming up with other states to issue a national alert to consumers who use online ads, mainly from Craigslist, to hire someone to do work around the house.
States have been trying to get Craiglist to help crackdown on illegal contractors who use the site to solicit jobs.
"They've been unresponsive, and it's gotten to the point where it's important for us ... and it's our obligation ... to notify consumers that there's a real risk if you do use this," said Rick Lopes with CSLB.
Craigslist did not respond to an email request for comment, but in the past, the company has taken down suspicious ads at the state's request and added a mandatory field for people to put in their contractors license number. If the space is left blank, the word "unlicensed" automatically appears in the ad.
But anyone can just type in anything and consumers can be duped.
Howard Blum fell for one of the ads after needing the roof of his rental fixed. Pictures show that's not exactly what he got for almost $10,000 from a contractor using someone else's license.
"Unfortunately, I hooked up with an unsavory character who defrauded me, conned me and ripped me off for a bunch of money," said Blum. "They didn't install the roof properly. Period!"
Contractors with licenses are insured and go through a background check. The state can even help you recoup your money if you're ripped off.
Without insurance, homeowners are liable for workers who get hurt on their property.
The sting also shows it pays to know who you're inviting over.
"One of the people we caught was a convicted murderer," Lopes said. "We also caught two registered sex offenders. And that's not unusual."
The state has set up a website called CheckTheLicenseFirst.com enabling you to check if your contractor is legitimate. But as Blum learned, call the holder of that license to make sure he knows it's being used.
Last year, the state recouped $45 million for consumers, mostly from licensed contractors. Untold millions are not collected from unlicensed contractors.