Beware of Scams after Hurricane Sandy

Advice from the Somerset County Consumer Protection Division

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 after the recent hurricane and nor’easter, 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 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

A state of emergency was declared in New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy. Once a state of emergency has been declared, it is illegal for anyone to sell merchandise or services needed because of the state of emergency for more than 10 percent above the selling price.

“It’s important that you be cautious and skeptical when presented with unsolicited remedies, especially after a disaster,” said Freeholder Bob 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.”

Additional disaster-related scam information can be found in the county Division of Consumer Protection’s brochure, “Flood Victims – How to Avoid Disaster-Related Scams.” Copies are available at the Somerset County Administration Building, located at 20 Grove St. in Somerville, and on the county website at www.co.somerset.nj.us/division/consumeraffairs.html

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