How to avoid post-storm contractor scams - New York News

Superstorm Sandy

How to avoid post-storm contractor scams

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If you need your home repaired after Hurricane Sandy, the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs has a warning so you won't get ripped off.

Eric Kanefsky, the acting director, urges you to do your own due diligence when picking a contractor. He said his division has already seen home improvement scams after Sandy.

The most important thing to know check to make sure your contractor is licensed with the state, he said. That does not guarantee that the contractor will do the job right or won't try to cheat you, but it is at least a start.

After Hurricane Irene in 2011, state officials set up a sting and caught 10 unregistered home improvement contractors trying to take advantage after a storm.

This time the acting director said the division will again be actively looking for anyone trying to take advantage of hurricane victims.

Here are some more tips on avoiding disaster-related scams:

  • Call the Division of Consumer Affairs to learn whether the contractor is registered, and whether the contractor has been the subject of any consumer complaints.
  • Demand a copy of the contractor's liability insurance policy. Call the insurer to make sure the policy is still valid.
  • Demand a written contract. Don't sign or pay for anything unless you understand and agree to all of the terms and conditions, including the fine print. Be sure to carefully review the list of materials that will be used.
  • Never pay the full price up-front.
  • Demand ID from anyone who claims to be from a utility company and wishes to inspect your home.
  • Never give your credit card number to strangers over the phone or Internet.
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