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Beware of Scams after a Flood

Somerset County Consumer Protection Consumer Advisory

The Somerset County Division of Consumer Protection wants consumers to know that marketing scams, deceptive door-to-door sales, home improvement scams and misleading solicitations for non-existent charities increase after disasters.  Following are some scams to be aware of following Hurricane Irene, although others may develop:

•               Telephone sales of “Disaster Relief Kits”

•               Fictitious fund-raising for flood victims

•               Prize-promotion schemes in which funds supposedly go to victims

•               People falsely claiming they can help process disaster-relief paperwork for
           a fee

•               Advance-fee loans to begin home repairs

•               Traditional door-to-door home repair scams

•               Phony inspectors selling unnecessary items such as home water-
           treatment systems

•               Fraudulent, dishonest home improvement contractors

•               Unlicensed electricians and plumbers

•               Auto-repair shops that overcharge and/ or perform poor, faulty or
           unnecessary repairs and other deceptive practices

•               Con artists making promises that are simply “too good to be true”

•               Price gouging

“It’s important that you be cautious and skeptical when presented with unsolicited remedies, especially after a disaster,” said Freeholder Director Robert Zaborowski, consumer protection liaison.  “By being aware of potential scams, you can protect yourself from con artists who may prey upon you during a difficult time.”

Residents may obtain a copy of the Somerset County Division of Consumer Protection’s brochure entitled “Flood Victims –How to Avoid Disaster-Related Scams” in the lobby of the county administration building, located at 20 Grove St. in Somerville .  Copies also have been distributed to Somerset County ’s 21 municipalities.  A copy of this brochure and other useful brochures can be printed from the Somerset County website at www.co.somerset.nj.us/division/consumeraffairs.html.

A state of emergency was declared in New Jersey on Aug. 25.   Residents should know that it is illegal for anyone to sell merchandise or services needed because of the state of emergency for more than 10 percent above the original price.  This includes any goods and services needed as a direct result of an emergency or to “sustain the life, health, safety or comfort” of individuals or their property.

For further information, contact the Somerset County Division of Consumer Protection at 908) 203-6080 or consumerprotection@co.somerset.nj.us