— As people in Bergen, Passaic,
Morris and Mercer counties return to their
flood-damaged homes, Attorney General
Peter C. Harvey and New Jersey Division
of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Jeffrey
Burstein are urging citizens to be on
the look-out for would-be con artists
who seek to carry out disaster-related
times of disaster, most of us do what
we can to see our neighbors through the
tough times,” Attorney General Harvey
said. “However, there are those
among us who see times of disaster as
opportunities to carry out fraudulent
fund-raising schemes, home repair scams,
auto repair frauds and to price gouge.”
has been a hard week for thousands of
New Jersey residents who were forced to
evacuate their homes when the banks of
the Delaware and Passaic rivers overflowed,
flooding their homes,” Acting Governor
Richard J. Codey said. “The last
thing we want flood victims to have to
deal with is scam artists whose greed
clouds their sense of decency.”
Consumer Affairs has not received any
complaints concerning flood-related scams
at this time, we are putting the unscrupulous
on notice that we will aggressively investigate
and, where appropriate, prosecute anyone
who attempts to profit from other people’s
tragedies,” Acting Director Burstein
are some important tips consumers should
heed to avoid becoming the victims of
time of year, most homeowners are already
thinking about sprucing up around the
house. But for flood victims, their needs
go far beyond cosmetic repairs. They’ll
be looking at thousands of dollars worth
of necessary repairs to make their homes
habitable again. Residents can protect
themselves from dishonest home repair
contractors by heeding the following tips:
around and obtain at least three written
Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Service
Center at 800-242-5846
(if calling from within the State of
New Jersey) or 973-504-6200
to find out if the contractor you’re
thinking about hiring has been the subject
of consumer complaints and/or legal
action by the State.
your contractor about his or her professional
affiliations and confirm the information
with the organizations.
sure all warranties and guarantees are
not pay for the entire job up front.
Payments of one-third in advance, one-third
halfway through the job and one-third
upon completion is the customary arrangement.
for the red flags. Be wary if the contractor
tells you that he or she needs a large
payment before the home repair work
can begin; insists you pay cash; tells
you a written contract is not necessary
– a verbal agreement is enough;
or has a P.O. Box as opposed to a street
address; does not have a business card
or, in the case of where he or she is
offering plumbing or electrical contracting
services, cannot produce a state license
the contractor is offering to do electrical
contracting services, call the State
Board of Electrical Contractors at 973-504-6410
to ensure that he or she is licensed
with that board to do such work.
the contractor is offering plumbing
services, call the State Board of Master
Plumbers at 973-504-6420
to ensure that he or she is properly
licensed to do such work.
transient home repair contractors. If
you hire a contractor, make sure you
get names, addresses, phone numbers,
license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions.
If a problem does occur, this information
will help law enforcement locate the
When you pay your contractor, ask for
a lien waiver. A lien waiver is a receipt
that states that the workers and material
suppliers will not ask you for money
once you have paid the contractor. Beware
of any request by a contractor to have
you sign a statement that says you will
cover the costs of materials and labor
if the contractor does not pay.
you let in anyone who claims to have
been sent by a utility company to inspect
your home, ask for identification. Representatives
of utilities and reputable businesses
will have proper identification. When
in doubt, call the company to verify
the identity of the worker.
Come December 31, 2005, home improvement
contractors who do business in New Jersey
will have to register under requirements
established by the New Jersey Contractors’
Registration Act, a law enacted last year.
To date, Consumer Affairs has received
more than 14,000 applications from home
improvement contractors for processing’.
For those who receive charities solicitations:
to charities you know and trust –
never give to a charity you know nothing
about. Ask for literature and read it.
Ask questions. Honest charities encourage
you to do so.
whether the organization is registered
with Consumer Affairs’ Charities
Registration Section or exempt from
the registration requirements. You may
confirm whether an organization is registered
or exempt by calling the unit at 973-504-6215.
You may also confirm registration online
out how long the organization has been
in operation and ask to see its financial
reports. These reports, called 990s,
are available by calling Consumer Affairs’
Charities Section. They reveal how much
money the organization takes in each
year, how much it spends on the causes
it claims to represent and how much
it pays toward administrative, management
and professional fund-raising fees.
General financial information about
a registered charity is also available
be fooled by a convincing name. A dishonest
charity will often have an impressive
name or one that closely resembles the
name of a respected, legitimate concern.
succumb to pressure. Don’t let
yourself be pressured into giving, and
don’t feel you have to contribute
on the spot. No legitimate organization
will expect you to contribute immediately,
even if you have given in the past.
if the charity uses a professional fundraiser
and, if so, what percentage of your
contribution will actually go toward
the flood relief efforts and how much
will be used to pay the fundraiser.
of unsolicited and phony e-mail notices
that claim to be from a charity asking
for your credit card information. This
scam is called “phishing”
and could be used by thieves to commit
identity theft. If the charity is unfamiliar
to you, check whether the group is registered
with Consumer Affairs’ Charities
Section. If the organization is registered
or if you know the organization, call
the group directly to find out if the
e-mail notice is valid.
Never give your credit card number to
strangers over the phone or Internet!
residents whose cars were damaged by the
out auto repair shops by calling Consumer
Affairs’ Consumer Service Center
friends and neighbors if they know a
to see if the shop is accredited by
the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP).
MAP is an industry-sponsored organization
that has established Uniform Inspection
Guidelines for inspecting vehicles and
a cost estimate in writing and be sure
to remind the mechanic to get your authorization
before making repairs not listed on
the original repair order. Auto repair
shops are required by law to do so.
you believe the mechanic has recommended
unnecessary work or you are dissatisfied
with the estimate, get a second opinion.
the work is guaranteed, get all the
warranty information in writing on the
repair order or bill.
April 3, 2005, Acting Governor Codey declared
a State of Emergency in New Jersey. Under
the Consumer Fraud Act, it is unlawful
during a state of emergency or within
30 days of the termination of a state
of emergency to charge excessive prices
-- or a price that is 10 percent more
than the original price -- for any merchandise
needed as a direct result of an emergency
or to “sustain the life, health,
safety or comfort” of individuals
or their property.
file a complaint:
you believe you are the victim of home
repair fraud, auto repair fraud or price
gouging, contact Consumer Affairs’
Consumer Service Center at 800-242-5846
(if calling from within the State of New
Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
A complaint form will be mailed to you
for you to fill out and mail back to Consumer
Affairs. You may also log onto Consumer
Affairs’ Web site to file your complaint
Click on “complaint
forms” and go to the “OCP
you believe you are the victim of charities
fraud, you may contact Consumer Affairs’
Charities Registration Section at 973-504-6215
to file a complaint.
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