El Paso County officials warn residents about spike in contractor fraud

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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — Although anyone can fall victim to a financial crime, there’s one specific crime that generally spikes during the summer.

What starts out as a renovation project could soon turn into a financial crime called contractor fraud.

“Contractor fraud is where a contractor takes the money that you have paid them to do a certain project for your home or your land and they take the money or they create a lien on your property,” Senior Deputy District Attorney for the 4th Judicial District Rachael Powell said.

According to Powell, Colorado law requires that contractors take clients’ money and hold it in trust, meaning they hold the money and use it only for your projects. But when that doesn’t happen, clients can consider contacting police. But there are some some things police can’t help with.

“I paid them to do this but I don’t like it or I don’t think it’s complete or it’s not up to my standards,” Powell explained. “Those are not things we get into.”

The taking of money with no work is where police come in. When that happens, documentation becomes essential.

“That can be checks, that can be wired transfers, how the money got from them to the contractor,” Powel said.

It’s a lengthy process at best.

“It takes a long time to get those types of records and get the statements that we need,” Powell explained. “Then, the court process is always lengthy, even longer than we hope and anticipate.”

Officials say the best thing you can do if you think you’re a victim of contractor fraud is to treat it as though you’re getting your taxes done. Gather everything you have including communication, receipts, and a timeline of what happened.

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