Scam gets a fix on Valley handymen

Grandparents and distressed homeowners aren’t the only people being targeted by scammers.

The Better Business Bureau of Central California recently reported that a Fresno handyman was the victim of a new scam targeting handymen looking for work.

Shortly after applying for a business license with the City of Fresno, the handyman was contacted by telephone by Alex Bermudez. Bermudez claims his company’s name is “International Real Estate,” located in Bismarck, N.D. The phone number listed on the business license holder’s phone was (701) 850-1128.

Bermudez followed up with an email from the account realestate.international100@gmail.com which included a photo attachment of a real estate company located in Bismarck, N.D., and a web site, www.4321property.com. But the web site’s contact address is listed as London, England and the company is not connected in any way with, nor has ever heard of Mr. Alex Bermudez.

In the email, Bermudez claimed “International Real Estate” operates under Real Estate license AB100, which is not a valid real estate license number in North Dakota. He said the company is hoping to sign up handymen to do contracting. This is illegal as all handymen in the state of California are only allowed to do jobs that total $500 or less, including materials and labor.

Mr. Bermudez included a contract for concrete work totaling $27,000, with 50% paid up front, and the remainder paid at the completion of the job. Materials needed for the project will be provided by Mr. Matt Martin, (206)497 3380, the area code for Seattle.

As a “Broker,” Bermudez falsely claimed that a handyman can work under his own license as a contractor: “The Real Estate ID will provide your company with a  (2.5) Million Dollar Insurance policy with STATE FARM INSURANCE in the event of any accidents (liability) or property damage and (workmen’s comp) for 10 workers for ONE YEARS, (24) months [sic].”

He goes on to say he is offering a “Membership” to allow license owners to receive business leads.  “The cost of this ID is $850 U.S. Dollars payable with Bank Of America. This ID will also cover any liability for all parties involved, and covers your labor in the event that you as a Contractor do not comply with your duties to the Broker.”

In order to sign up for the membership, Bermudez required that the handyman fill out the attached contract which asks for the handyman’s social security number any felony convictions, and that the $850 be paid by “SunTrust Bank, Western Union, or MoneyGram.” Those interested are asked to hurry because it is a limited time offer. In order to legitimize the scam, Bermudez includes a copy of an FIABCI International Real Estate Federation Certificate. But upon further inspection, the certificate is for John D. Pinson, who is not listed anywhere else in the email.

This is a call Bermudez has repeatedly made to new business license owners in the City of Fresno and one that new business license filers in Tulare County may receive from Bermudez or someone using a different name but describing a similar scam.

To report scams to the Better Business Bureau, go to scamtracker at www.bbb.org/central-california-inland-empire.

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