Emergency Decision Halts New Student Enrollment at Corinthian Colleges’ WyoTech and Everest College Locations

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The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has issued an Emergency Decision effective at the close of business April 23, 2015, ordering Corinthian Colleges’ Everest College and WyoTech locations in California to cease enrolling new students.

Read the news release here.

Hiring a Contractor Step-by-Step

Preparation is key when hiring a licensed contractor, and as Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  So how do you properly prepare for a construction project, and who can you trust to give you such advice?  Start with those who regulate the contractors.

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) protects California consumers by licensing and regulating the state’s construction industry. Hiring a CSLB-licensed contractor is an essential factor in consumer protection.

Here are some tips CSLB recommends when hiring a licensed contractor.

Create a Project Folder
Start with a file folder to store all of your paperwork. You will need to keep track of contractor and subcontractor information, insurance papers, receipts, and other project documents.

Material Costs
Hiring a Contractor sinkYour contractor will help you determine the total cost of materials, but it is a good idea to do some research before you start the interview process to keep control of your cost estimates. The cost of a faucet might range from $30 to $300, so it is important to get an idea of what you like and what fits into your budget. Pick out products you really like, but have a backup with a different price point. Make sure to note the brand, model number, and price of all the materials you want to use.

You’re Ready to Interview a Licensed Contractor
Before hiring a licensed contractor you should interview and get bids from at least three. Ask your friends, family, and people you trust about any contractors they’ve worked with successfully. Another source could be your local builders association, and there is always the Internet. But before you hire your contractor, be sure to get his or her license number and check it at www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). CSLB’s database will be able to tell you if the contractor is in good standing, is licensed for the trade work involved in your project, and if the contractor has worker’s compensation insurance for employees.

When the contractor arrives, the first thing you will want to do is make sure the name on the contractor’s license matches his or her driver license or other photo ID. Now it’s time to discuss your project.

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Hiring a Contractor drivers license

Check the Candidates Twice
After interviewing a few licensed contractors and selecting a favorite, it’s time to check references. This is a chance to check the contractor’s professional reputation. Ask for a list of people who have had similar work done by that contractor. If the references tell you about positive experiences, ask to see the project in person. Be sure to view at least three other projects to help ensure you are going to get the quality of work you desire.

You Found THE ONE, But are You Ready to Sign a Contract?
Hiring a Contractor expertsYour hard work is paying off and it is finally time to sign a contract, but don’t rush to sign on the dotted line. If yours is a large, more complicated project, such as new home construction or an extensive remodel, this is a good time to have an independent expert review your project plans. You can go to a local builders exchange office and use one of their “plan check rooms” to have one of the qualified pros, who volunteer their time, review this for you.

This is also the time to add more paperwork to your file. If this is going to be “your contractor,” then be sure to get copies of the workers’ compensation and general liability insurance policies. CSLB’s website will have information about the workers’ compensation insurance on the contractor’s detail page.

The Contract Check List
Hiring a Contractor checklistThe contract should include the contract start and completion date; a payment schedule for work (but only pay for work after it has been completed); planned details of the project; detailed information about the materials to be used; a list of all sub-contractors; the stipulation that the contractor will obtain all building permits, take care of debris removal and clean up, and locations where the materials will be stored; and the deposit amount. By law, the deposit can’t be more than $1,000 or 10% of the total bid, whichever is less, unless the contractor has what’s called a blanket performance and payment bond on file with CSLB. This bond will be noted on the contractor’s detail page on CSLB’s website or you can call the toll-free automated information line. Contracts also are required to include such information as mechanics liens, how to contact CSLB, and the three-day right to cancel.

Once you know who all of the subcontractors, workers, and material suppliers will be, have each sign a lien release form. (Standard lien release forms are available on CSLB’s website.) Double-check the list and get a qualified professional to review everything before you sign your contract.

Congratulations! You Hired a Contractor
Hiring a contractor can be quite an experience. It’s important for you to participate in each step of your project, visit the worksite regularly, and take photographs. Pictures will help you document the progression of the project, and can be a useful tool if problems arise.

Remember, the Contractors State License Board is here for you. If you have questions, or need help, check www.cslb.ca.gov or call (800) 321-CSLB (2752).

Additional resources can be found in the Consumer section of CSLB’s website.

Cinderella Surgery: Someday My Shoes Will Fit …

shutterstock_63357409If the shoe fits, wear it. But what if it doesn’t? For some, cosmetic foot surgery—also known as “Cinderella surgery”—is the solution.

Gaining in popularity, these surgeries are requested by those, mainly women, looking to surgically fit into fashionable shoes such as narrow-toed high heels. The patients desire toe shortenings or slimmings—and in the most extreme cases, even removal of the baby toe—just to fit into their shoes. Some ask for collagen injections into the balls of their feet, which provide added padding for comfort when wearing high heels.

Women also seek “foot beautification” surgery to make their feet more aesthetically pleasing. Toes are sculpted and toenails narrowed.

So is it worth it?

In a word, “no.”

“The risks of cosmetic foot surgery far outweigh any benefits,” said Steven L. Haddad, MD, president of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). “​We discourage patients with normal, fully functioning feet from trying to change their feet to fit a specific style of shoe. The shoe should fit the foot, not the other way around.”

The list of possible complications and risks is long. According to AOFAS, risks include those that come with any surgical procedure, including infections and anesthesia issues. After surgery, there are possible complications such as permanent nerve damage, scarring, and chronic foot pain. In the end, the procedures can actually lead to new foot issues, such as pain while walking.

“Your feet carry your full weight day in and day out, balancing you on 26 bones in each foot, 33 joints in each foot and ankle, and many nerves and blood vessels,” stated AOFAS in a press release. “You need every one of your foot bones to maintain your balance, walk, and run. Cutting into a foot that does not need surgery is a serious and potentially dangerous undertaking.”

Medically necessary

Foot surgery may be recommended for certain medical conditions—for example, when someone is suffering from painful bunions or hammertoes and when more comfortable shoes are not helping the pain. However, before agreeing to any foot surgery, you should seek the advice and services of a licensed, experienced podiatrist. Contact DCA’s Board of Podiatric Medicine (www.bpm.ca.gov) to find a qualified podiatrist, to check license history and status, and to see if there are any disclosures of enforcement actions.

But when it comes to surgeries just to fit into high-fashion shoes or to beautify your feet, just step away.

 

Merced Veterinarian Ordered To Pay $20,000 In Restitution To The Department Of Consumer Affairs

Veterinary Medical BoardMerced Veterinarian Jimmy Lee Byerly has been ordered to pay $20,000 to the Department of Consumer Affairs following a civil agreement with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office for engaging in unfair business competition.

An investigation revealed Byerly was practicing veterinary medicine from his home and was not authorized by the Board of Veterinary Medicine to do so. By practicing out of an unregistered location, Byerly was avoiding inspections and paying registration fees.

In addition to paying restitution, the agreement with the District Attorney’s Office states he must register the location of his practice; not practice at his home, unless registered with the Veterinary Medical Board; dispose of medical waste appropriately; and display his license at his primary place of business. Byerly’s practice is also subject to inspections by Board representatives.

By following the terms and conditions of the injunction, and after three years, Byerly shall be entitled to have the District Attorney’s Office sign a stipulation setting aside the judgment and dismissing the case with prejudice.

Byerly may face administrative action against his license by the Veterinary Medical Board.

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The Department of Consumer Affairs promotes and protects the interests of California Consumers. Consumers who wish to file a complaint can contact the Department of Consumer at (800) 952-5210. Consumers can also file a complaint online at www.dca.ca.gov.

 

Consejos De Ultimo Minuto Para Preparar Su Declaración De Impuestos

shutterstock_93790930Se acerca el 15 de abril y si todavía no ha seleccionado un preparador de impuestos, aquí hay algunos consejos:

1. Obtenga recomendaciones de familiares y amigos

2. Revise la historia del preparador de impuestos con la autoridad apropiada:
La Junta California de Contabilidad para contadores públicos certificados y contadores públicos. http://www.cba.ca.gov

3. Es buena idea conocer en persona o por el teléfono al profesional de impuestos antes de preparar tus impuestos.

4. Otros Servicios
Muchas veces la primera relación del contribuyente con los contadores públicos certificados es a través del trabajo de preparar impuestos. Servicios adicionales pueden tener requisitos adicionales, tales como: revisión por pares y autoridad para firmar.

Consejos Finales:

  • Nunca firme una declaración en blanco.
  • No use un preparador de impuestos que se niega a firmar su declaración de impuestos o completar la información de preparador de impuestos requeridos.
  • Asegúrese de obtener una copia de su declaración de impuestos completa.
  • E-file (presentar su declaración de impuestos electrónicamente) y solicite un reembolso de depósito directo. Generalmente recibirá su reembolso más rápido y reduce la posibilidad de robo de identidad.
  • Su declaración federal de impuestos debe ser presentada antes de la medianoche el 15 de abril. Sin embargo, si necesita tiempo extra puede presentar IRS formulario 4868 antes del 15 de abril y retrasar la presentación de su declaración federal hasta el 15 de octubre. La extensión automática no demora el requisito que paga sus impuestos antes del 15 de abril y las sanciones podrían imponerse y pueden cobrar interés.

Last Minute Tax Preparation Tips

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The April 15 tax deadline is approaching, and if you haven’t yet selected a tax preparer, here are some tips from the California Board of Accountancy to help make a wise choice.

  • Get recommendations from family, friends, and others you trust who may have had similar tax preparation needs.
  • In California, the only individuals allowed to charge a fee for preparing taxes are
    Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), Public Accountants (PAs), Enrolled Agents (EAs), attorneys, and California registered tax preparers (CRTPs).
  • Only CPAs, EAs and attorneys have unlimited representation rights before the IRS and may represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals.
  • In addition to tax preparation, are you looking for an accountant to assist with financial planning, estate questions, IRS issues, or business planning?
  • Review the tax preparer’s history with the appropriate licensing authority. The Board of Accountancy for CPAs and PAs provides the public the ability to check the status of a license with “License Lookup” on its website, cba.ca.gov.
  • Check the California Tax Education Council (CTEC) for California registered tax preparers; the U.S. Department of the Treasury for enrolled agents; and the California Bar Association for attorneys.
  • Meet the tax professional: Because you will be trusting someone with your financial information, being comfortable with them is important. Interview them, preferably in person, but at the very least, by phone.

WHAT TO ASK A PREPARER

  • What type of tax work do they typically perform?
  • What office hours does he/she or the firm keep? Are available to take phone inquiries?
  • What type of continuing education have they recently completed? It is important to select a CPA who has completed continuing education consistent with the type of services you are selecting.
  • Has the tax preparer been disciplined?
  • Does he/she carry professional liability insurance? This helps protect consumers in the event a claim is made for damages arising from a tax preparer’s failure to perform tax or other services satisfactorily.
  • If you hire a CPA, ask for an engagement letter that details who will be performing the work, confirms that all personal information is secure and won’t be disclosed without your permission, and specifies the cost of the services.
  • Ask about fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account, not the preparer’s.
  • Ask about anything on your tax return you don’t understand, and review all information before you sign your tax return: name, address, Social Security numbers, or other tax identification numbers. Even if a professional is preparing your taxes, you are responsible for what is on your return.

IMPORTANT ADVICE

  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.
  • Don’t use a tax preparer that refuses to sign your tax return or complete the required tax preparer information.
  • Be certain to get a copy of your completed return.
  • E-file and request a direct deposit refund. You will generally receive your refund much more quickly, and it reduces the chance of identity theft.
  • If you need extra time, you can file IRS Form 4868 by April 15 and delay filing your federal return until October 15. However, getting the automatic extension does not delay the requirement that you pay your taxes by April 15, and penalties could be imposed and interest charged on taxes not paid by the deadline.

 

Consumer Affairs Wiki Available Online

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What helps the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) answer hundreds of thousands of calls each year?  An A-Z directory called the Consumer Wiki, and this resource is now available on our website for anyone to use.

DCA has jurisdiction over, and issues licenses for over 200 professions including doctors, nurses, contractors, real estate professionals, and cosmetologists.  When a call falls outside the Department’s jurisdiction, the Consumer Wiki is one of the main tools used to answer questions.

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For example: if you are a tenant or a landlord and need help with a problem, the Consumer Wiki will lead you to the Landlord/Tenant page.  There you will find links to the California Tenants – A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities handbook and you will find contact information for many of the county offices who have specialized rules for tenancy.

Have questions about canceling your cell phone contract or questions regarding your privacy rights?  Want to learn the steps you can take to stop telemarketers and those pesky Robocalls?  No matter what your question or problem, you can probably find helpful information in the Consumer Wiki.  Visit it today!

HVAC Duct Cleanings—Do You Really Need One?

shutterstock_105887744Now that the weather is warming up, you may start seeing these deals a lot: “Air duct cleaning service for cheap! $69 for your whole house!”

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. Before agreeing to any heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) service, make sure it’s one that’s truly necessary, will be done correctly, and is performed by a licensed and qualified contractor.

What is a duct cleaning?

The service uses equipment such as vacuums and brushes to clean out the various HVAC heating and cooling system components such as supply and return air ducts and registers (vents), heat exchangers, heating and cooling coils, fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unity housing.

How do I know if my home needs a duct cleaning?

Chances are, your home probably doesn’t need one. Unless your ducts are extremely filthy, cleanings are generally not necessary.

A cleaning is recommended when your home’s ducts are contaminated; however, these are very specific situations. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states instances in which you may need a duct cleaning:

  • Visible mold. If there is a large amount of visible mold growth in the ducts, the ducts and unit should be cleaned. Have the contractor show you the mold.
  • Vermin. If the ducts show signs of having vermin (e.g., rats and mice) in them, the animals need to be removed and the ducts cleaned.
  • Renovation. During a home remodel, the ducts may have significant amounts of dust and debris that get released into your home through your air vents.

If you think you need a duct cleaning, do the research before getting serviced. Thoroughly research the contractor and company to make sure they are licensed and qualified to perform the cleaning–check with the Contractors State License Board. And, as with all service offers, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Professional duct cleanings require many hours and several workers, and the EPA states that the service costs between $450 and $1,000.

So, whole-house air duct cleaning for $69? That’s a red flag that you mostly likely won’t get what you paid for.

For more information about whether your home needs a HVAC duct cleaning and on choosing a contractor, review the EPA publication Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? at www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airduct.html.

CSLB’s Senior Scam Stopper Seminars

senior scamWhen it comes to construction and contracting scams, seniors are the most-targeted and vulnerable group. According to the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), one in five seniors has been the victim of such a scam.

In an effort to protect seniors, CSLB—in cooperation with legislators, State and local agencies, law enforcement, district attorneys, and community-based organizations—offers Senior Scam Stopper seminars throughout the State. The seminars provide information about construction scams and how to protect yourself, as well as expert speakers who discuss other fraud-related topics such as identity theft, and auto repair, Medicare, foreign lottery, and mail scams.

There are several Senior Scam Stopper seminars held every month. Here’s where and when they’re happening this month:

  • San Diego: April 6, 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
  • Fontana: April 9, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
  • Vacaville: April 10, 10:30 a.m. –12 pm.
  • Castro Valley: April 16, 1–3 p.m.
  • Thousand Oaks: April 17, 3–4:30 p.m.

For more information about the seminars and upcoming dates and times, visit the CSLB website at www.cslb.ca.gov/consumers/senior_scam_stoppers or call the CSLB Outreach Coordinator at (916) 255-3273.