Scams targeting Park City low
March 9, 2012
When it comes to scams, Park City is one area of the state that just isn’t falling for it. The Utah Division of Consumer Protection recently released the top 10 scams Utahns fall prey to. While the area does have its some of its own specialized brand of scam artists, the numbers show that overall the threat is small.
"Many of our complaints on scams are coming more from people in financial straits," said Director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection Traci Gundersen. "There is not a whole lot coming out of Park City, and that may be because the area has more affluent, savvy people living there."
In 2011, of the 2,474 complaints the division received, only nine came from Park City. The calls they did receive from the area mostly dealt with e-commerce scams on the internet and home improvement repair.
"With home improvement and repair, people are targeting affluent homes," Gundersen said. "They may claim to be a repair service working in concrete, granite or electrical installations, it doesn’t matter. These scams involve people who are not necessarily doing the work after a person puts in the deposit. Sometimes it can be a $20,000 or $30,000 deposit that is just gone."
Despite numbers in the area showing a relative calm for scams, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, Gundersen said. Earlier this week, the department received a call from a homeowner in Jeremy Ranch complaining of a contractor who wasn’t doing the work but taking the money.
Michael Sommer, a part-time resident in the Snyderville Basin, said he had a nightmare encounter with a local general contractor. When he hired the contractor, he believed the man was licensed.
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"He came recommended from my Homeowners Association," Sommer said. "They told me he was licensed, and this came from head of the HOA."
Sommer and the contractor agreed on a price and dates to have certain stages of the work complete, but that’s where the problems began. Missed deadlines and days without showing up for work started to push Sommer to a breaking point.
"He started lying to me," he said. "I gave him money last week, and he doesn’t show up Monday. On Tuesday, he comes in, but he didn’t have any subcontractors with him."
After a fight that ended with Sommers calling the police, the contractor quit the job. When Sommer went to change over the construction permit for the house, he realized the permit was never issued to the contractor but a Salt Lake City concrete company.
"I did a little investigating and it turns out he wasn’t using his real name," Sommer said. "I also discovered that he has a $200,000 judgment out against him and his company, and his license expired last November."
It’s problems like these that Gundersen said she saw the most of coming out of the Park City area. Usually, the contractor is not licensed or is using money for supplies on personal bills without doing any of the work. In some cases, Gundersen said she saw contractors working with subcontractors who will do the work but without receiving any money from the original contractor hired and paid to do the job.
"We see these types of scams targeted more in the Park City area because of the bigger dollar amount associated with the contracting jobs in the area. It’s more lucrative to go after someone who needs big home repairs."
In many cases, avoiding scams is about doing the homework, Gundersen added. Whether its an e-commerce issue or a contractor, checking up on the company before writing a check is the best way to avoid a painful hit to the wallet.
Complaints by year
2011: 2,474 complaints in Utah, 9 from Park City
2010: 3,516 complaints in Utah, 15 from Park City
2009: 4,170 complaints in Utah, 24 from Park City