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Shady contractors target of Bergen County task force

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

A task force headed by a 38-year veteran of the Bergen County Police Department has been created to help protect homeowners against consumer fraud in areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, particularly Moonachie and Little Ferry.

“Anyone caught taking advantage of homeowners, especially our elderly homeowners, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law allows,” County Executive Kathleen Donovan announced this afternoon.

The task force will be headed by BCPD Capt. Victor F. Cuttitta Jr., who has been responsible for supervising all County Police patrol and security functions, as well as oversight of special operations and community policing, Donovan said.

Members will be drawn from the county’s Consumer Affairs division and the Office of Consumer Protection, she said.

They will be watching working on home repairs – especially those in Little Ferry and Moonachie, two areas that were devastated by tidal flooding and high winds from Sandy, Donovan said.

Donovan said homeowners whose property suffered extensive damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy need to be vigilant against con artists who will take their money without doing the job.

She said she also encourages people to “watch out for [the welfare of] their elderly neighbors, who are often targeted by con artists posing as legitimate contractors.”

If you have any questions or concerns, you can call the county Office of Consumer Affairs (201-336-6413) or the County Police’s Office of Consumer Protection (201-336-6400/6424).

Information is also available at: www.co.bergen.nj.us

Chief of Staff Jeanne Baratta, who is also the mayor of Fair Lawn, offered some quick tips:

·     Never give your credit card number or financial information to strangers over the phone or on the Internet.

·     Call Consumer Affairs to find out if the home improvement contractor you are considering is registered and if there are any complaints against that individual or his company.

·     It is customary not to pay for the entire home improvement project in advance. Pay one-third beforehand, one-third halfway through and one-third upon completion.

·     If the contractor is offering to do electrical work, call the Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors to ensure that he or she is licensed to do such work.

·     If the contractor is offering plumbing services, call the State Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers to ensure that he or she is properly licensed.

·     If a contractor suggests an expensive repair, get a second opinion from another contractor before agreeing to the work.

·     Be wary of unsolicited contractors coming to your door with no written estimates and offering prices that are too good to be true.

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