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.