Hotline and website launched to help curb post disaster fraud, alleged arson cases to be fully prosecuted
In reiterating the state and law enforcement's strong commitment to catching the responsible parties, the Governor has said that California is too vulnerable to catastrophic fires to be anything less than super-vigilant when it comes to going after arsonists.
To assist the victims in recovering from the devastation that these fires caused, the Governor also discussed further actions the state is taking to protect them during the recovery process. During a meeting the Governor convened with state officials to discuss the state's next steps, the Governor said he would have no tolerance for price gougers or shady contractors while all efforts are focused on putting southern California back together.
"We are also going after the scam artists and price gougers; the insurance claims adjuster rip-offs and shady contractors and anyone else who preys on people hurt by these fires. We are as serious about protecting people from cheats and criminals as we are about protecting them from fire," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "If anyone tries to exploit this tragedy, I will make sure the state of California does everything in its power so they regret it for a very long time."
To help inform and protect southern Californians against these actions, the State and Consumer Services Agency (SCSA) set up the Consumer Protection Hotline, 1-800-952-5210, to take reports of scam and victim abuse as well as provide information on the numerous contractors, loan officers and other licensed professionals who will be assisting the victims in rebuilding their lives.
Callers will speak to a live operator and can receive assistance in several languages. They will be provided with contact information for vital resources, and receive advice as to the services that are available for disaster recovery efforts. Callers will also be directed to other federal, state and local government agencies that can directly assist with their needs. This hotline will be open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
SCSA also launched an accompanying Web site, www.RebuildYourLife.ca.gov to make the information available to those with internet access. Fire victims are encouraged to call or log-on to verify the legitimacy and check for any previous complaints against businesses offering them services. The hotline and Web site aim to reduce fraud and prevent further stress on fire victims.
In further actions to make information available to the fire victims during the recovery process, the State Personnel Board and the Department of Personnel Administration completed an interagency effort, indentifying the availability of volunteer foreign language translators. Over 2,000 state employees were identified in the fire areas that are willing to report to area shelters upon notice to translate fire updates, safety information and provide assistance to non-English speakers. These volunteer translators will be deployed by the Office of Emergency Services' housing and shelter programs to Local Assistance Centers and shelters to provide assistance to non-English and/or limited-English speaking victims.