State Warns Against Storm Scams
Thursday, November 1, 2012 • 4:21pm
TRENTON, NJ - Governor Chris Christie, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today warned consumers to beware of home improvement scams and charity scams perpetrated by offenders who prey on the desperation of those working to recover from disasters.
"Our immediate priority today is our work at the state and local levels to ensure the safety of New Jerseyans in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy," Governor Christie said. "However, we know from past experience that fly-by-night contractors who are incompetent, dishonest, or both, will descend upon the storm-affected areas in the coming days and weeks, seeking to capitalize on those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. Consumers must be extremely wary and do their due diligence before they hire anyone, sign any contract, or pay any money for home repair."
The Division of Consumer affairs offers tips for consumers on "How to Avoid Disaster-Related Scams" in English at http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/disaster/floodtipsflyer_1.pdf
· Beware of fly-by-night opportunists who may have come in from out of state -- or those who may live locally but lack the skills and honesty you need for a significant repair job. Learn whether the contractor is properly registered with the Division of Consumer Affairs.
· Call the Division at 800-242-5846 to learn whether the contractor is duly registered, and whether the business has been the subject of consumer complaints. You can also check the Division's online listing of legal filings to learn whether the business has been the subject of legal action by the Division.
· Before hiring a contractor, demand a copy of the contractor's liability insurance policy, and contact the insurer to make sure the policy is valid.
· It is customary not to pay for the entire home improvement project in advance. The general rule of thumb is to pay no more than one-third beforehand, one-third halfway through, and one-third upon completion.
· Never give your credit card number or financial information to strangers over the phone or on the Internet.
· In addition, you should demand identification before you let anyone who claims to be from a utility company inspect your home.
"No matter how urgent or desperate your need for repairs, you must stop and take the time to learn all you can about any contractor who solicits you," Attorney General Chiesa said. "Contact the Division of Consumer Affairs to learn whether the contractor is registered in New Jersey, and learn whether he or she has been the subject of consumer complaints. Ask people you know to recommend a contractor who has a solid reputation and a track record for honesty and good service. If the person is an opportunist who came in from out of state to earn money from the misery of those affected by the storm, your best bet is to stay away."