Lilac Fire Scam: Con artists are preying on homeowners - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Lilac Fire Scam: Con artists are preying on homeowners

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) - As the Lilac Fire comes to an end, authorities are warning affected homeowners to be aware of scams.
  
Several state and local agencies held a news conference Thursday to spread the word on a new anti-fraud effort to protect victims from scam artists who are preying on homeowners.

Officials say they want to educate homeowners about steps they can take to protect themselves from unlicensed contractors who are looking to target vulnerable wildfire victims.

Currently there are enforcement teams canvasing the Lilac Fire neighborhoods to warn people of scams. 

The fire was 97 percent contained as of Thursday -- one week since the first flames broke out for unknown reasons west of Interstate 15 and north of Lilac Road in Pala Mesa amid gusty, arid Santa Ana winds.

Close to 200 structures have been either destroyed or damaged in this fire. Around 180 families have been displaced and are left looking for help. 

Local officials say there are a few common mistakes that people make when they're trying to rebuild that can easily be avoided.

Some homeowners tend to be anxious to rebuild or make repairs and will sometimes go with an unlicensed contractor. By doing that, you run the risk of inviting criminals onto your property or into your home. Plus, homeowners risk being victimized a second time through financial loss and liability if a worker is injured on their property and not covered by workers' compensation insurance.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Legitimate, licensed contractors face unfair competition from illegal operators who skirt laws that protect homeowners and workers.
  • Like contractors, insurance adjusters also must be licensed; wildfire victims must be cautious before allowing anyone to help with their damage claims.

The Lilac Fire destroyed 157 structures -- many of them dwellings in the Rancho Monserate Country Club mobile home park in Fallbrook -- and damaged 64 more. No human deaths were reported, but at least 46 horses died, many of them stabled at the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center in Bonsall.

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