• October 31, 2023

DCBA Stories: Saving Grandma’s House from Financial Fraud

DCBA Stories: Saving Grandma’s House from Financial Fraud

DCBA Stories: Saving Grandma’s House from Financial Fraud 1000 587 Consumer & Business

DCBA Stories is an ongoing series of articles showcasing the many ways the staff of the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs answer the call to help the people of Los Angeles County.

It all began with a small leak in the kitchen sink. Annoying, yes, but nothing that seemed like a major concern. At least, that’s what 78-year-old grandmother Annie* believed. Little did she know that the minor repair would cost her entire life savings…until her family reached out to the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs for help.

Annie received a phone call from someone promoting contractor services. Because she was having issues with her kitchen sink, she agreed to have the contractor inspect her home. After the inspection, the contractor convinced Annie that she had problems far beyond a leaky sink. They presented her with a laundry list of issues, including severe foundational problems, electrical problems, and the need for insulation. They also claimed her attic was infested with “poisonous material.”

Trusting the contractor, she agreed to the remodeling services. Annie handed over a staggering $115,000 in cash and accepted an additional deferred-interest loan of $55,000, bringing the total repair costs to $170,000. Plus, with her savings depleted, she likely could not pay back the loan on time and the added interest costs would quickly put Annie in danger of losing her home entirely.Ano older adult woman holds a classic corded telephone to her ear while seated in a chair with yellow flowers on a nearby table

When Annie’s family eventually heard about the deal, they suspected she was a victim of elder fraud. They knew to contact DCBA for help. Taryn, an investigator with DCBA’s Consumer Protections team was assigned the case and quickly went to work.

Taryn learned from Annie’s son that his mother showed early signs of Alzheimer’s and had accepted services she didn’t need. In fact, Annie had already undergone foundational work just one year prior with a different company. He also claimed she didn’t need any electrical rewiring and that her attic did not have poisonous material.

Taryn carefully reviewed claims and invoices and found that Annie had been grossly overcharged for substandard work. The new foundational work was not up to code. The contractors also left uncovered holes all over the home and never finished the promised paint job. Taryn also found that the contracting company did not have the necessary permits to carry out the work.

When Taryn spoke with the contractor and their attorney, they denied any wrongdoing. But Taryn continued advocating for Annie’s rights as a consumer and her dedication eventually paid off as Annie received a $125,000 settlement.

Thanks to DCBA, the settlement funds allowed Annie to repay the $55,000 deferred interest loan on time, save her home, and allow for many more clean dishes in the years ahead.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a scam, elder financial abuse, or has a dispute with a business, reach out to DCBA’s consumer protection team at (800) 593-8222. You can also schedule an appointment to speak with an investigator at a time that’s convenient to you.

Older adults can learn more about avoiding scams by visiting dcba.lacounty.gov/smarterseniors.

If you witness or suspect any kind of elder abuse, please contact the Los Angeles County Aging and Disabilities Department by calling (877) 477-3646.

* Note: Some names and specific details of cases featured in DCBA Stories have been adjusted to respect the privacy of our team members and the people we serve.

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