N.J. Officials Offer Tips to Flood Victims on How to Avoid Disaster-Related Scams

April 11, 2005

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 scams.

“During times of disaster, most of us do what we can to see our neighbors through the tough times,” 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.”

“This 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 Codey said. “The last thing we want flood victims to have to deal with is scam artists whose greed clouds their sense of decency.”

“While 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,” Burstein said.

Come Dec. 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.

On 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.

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