This month, investigators posing as homeowners in Utah and seven other states got bids for construction and handyman services from people they found on the Internet as part of a sting to catch unlicensed contractors.
In just one week, 21 were cited in two Utah counties. Mark Steinagel, who heads the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, says it's a new approach for his agency, which typically stays busy responding to complaints about contractors.
"So, I think that it was pretty ripe with people who thought that they could just forever act unlicensed, and unless we happened upon their job site, they would be fine."
In Utah, the state checks contractors' criminal records and financial backgrounds as well as their qualifications to do the types of work they're advertising. In that way, Steinagel says they're doing some of the customer's legwork and providing them some protection against fraud.
"We still encourage people to, you know, check references and look at other work, and be careful when entering into a contract, not pay too much money upfront. But you really get started well if you ensure the person is licensed."
Steinagel says it's easy to check a contractor's license online anytime at dopl.utah.gov.