Officials: Beware of scams

For residents who are facing the task of clearing debris, repairing homes and draining flooded property in the wake of Hurricane Irene, officials are warning them to be wary of suspicious offers of assistance.

“It is an unfortunate fact that disasters attract their share of con artists and frauds, from fly-by-night home improvement contractors to fake charities that do nothing but line their own pockets,” Gov. Chris Christie said in a press release. “Disaster recovery is enough of an ordeal without the added outrage of being scammed.”

Local officials also sounded off on the situation.

“While it may be tempting to hire a ‘contractor’who suddenly shows up at your door offering to fix a damaged roof at a suspiciously low price, you many find the work is shoddy or even goes unfinished,” Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said.

If a contractor comes to offer his services, a state registration number should be readily available, Vicari said. Only after confirming the number’s validity with the Division of Consumer Affairs should a contract be signed.

Staggered payment for the work should also be arranged. State officials suggested paying one-third of the total cost at the beginning of the project, one-third when 50 percent of the work has been done, and the final third when the project has been completed.

The same amount of caution should be taken with charities looking for donations, officials said.

“Beware of phone solicitations,” Vicari said. “Take the time to learn more about the charity and how your donation would be used.”

Residents looking for additional information should visit the website at www.njconsumeraffairs. gov or call the Division of Consumer Affairs Charities Hotline at 973- 504-6215.