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Task Force Launched to Combat Sandy Scams

Inspectors to spread out across Bergen County and authorities will have “zero tolerance” for fraudulent home repair companies and contractors, the Bergen County Executive said.

Officials will inspect contractors working on repairs in areas slammed by Superstorm Sandy as part of a new county police-led task force designed to protect homeowners from storm-related scams, the county executive announced Tuesday.

“My administration will have zero tolerance for fraudulent home improvement companies or any contractor or company that seeks to take advantage of vulnerable people suffering from the terrible tragedy that hit our county,” Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan said in a statement.

Led by County Police Capt. Victor F. Cuttitta Jr., the task force will include officials from the Consumer Affairs and Consumer Protections offices. Inspectors will fan out across Bergen County, with special attention given to flood-ravaged Little Ferry and Moonachie, according to the county.

Donovan urged residents to be alert for possible fraudsters, who she said often target the elderly. The county executive vowed to vigorously pursue any unscrupulous contractors.

“Anyone caught taking advantage of homeowners, especially our elderly homeowners, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law allows,” Donovan said.

Bergen County’s official website is being updated with information to help residents deal with home repair and cleanup companies, Chief of Staff Jeanne Baratta said in the statement.

Donovan said consumer protection questions should be directed to the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs at 201-336-6413, or the Bergen County Police Office of Consumer Protection at 201-336-6400/6424.

In addition, officials offered the following tips for dealing with home improvement contractors: 

  • Never give your credit card number or financial information to strangers over the phone or on the Internet.
  • Call Consumer Affairs to find out if the home improvement contractor you are considering is registered and if there are any complaints against that individual or his company.
  • It is customary not to pay for the entire home improvement project in advance. Pay one-third beforehand, one-third halfway through and one-third upon completion.
  • If the contractor is offering to do electrical work, call the Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors to ensure that he or she is licensed to do such work.
  • If the contractor is offering plumbing services, call the State Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers to ensure that he or she is properly licensed.
707282 November 22, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Great idea. Its also about time police start enforcing this. I constantly see illegal contractors in Ridgewood and all through out bergen county. Contractors are suppost to have there licenses right on the vechcle. With the name of the co on the truck. If you see a contractor or someone doing work without the proper documentation call the # in the article.
Vlad November 22, 2012 at 05:02 AM
How dare any reputable tradesman do any work without paying the government for the privilege! Taxes aren't enough, we need to, charge extra fees and punish those who don't comply. This is the USSA dam it!
Sam A November 22, 2012 at 12:54 PM
How dare a qualified tradesman do business without paying homage to the state! Don't they know paying taxes are not enough? They need to pay the state not only for starting their company, but for the right to business too. How do people expect all those well paid state employees to keep their jobs? Who cares if contractors need to raise their prices!

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