long last summer is here, bringing with it the potential for Consumer
Affairs issues. The Middlesex County Consumer Affairs Office offers
the following alerts for Consumer protection during the summer months:
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing financial crimes. There
are several things that consumers can do to prevent themselves from
being a victim of this type of crime while traveling and vacationing
- Keep a list
of all your account numbers, credit card numbers, their expiration
dates and phone numbers of all creditors in a secure location. In
the event your wallet or purse is stolen, you can notify all of your
account holders and cancel the accounts.
- Always check
credit card bills and bank statements to be sure all charges and transactions
- NEVER give personal
information or account numbers over the phone unless you initiate
the call, and are familiar with the company you called.
- When traveling,
try to keep credit cards and debit cards in your view. Pay at registers
or counters. Do not allow the card to be taken out of your view.
you believe you are a victim of identity theft:
- File a police
report with your local police or the police in the town where the
identity theft occurred.
- Contact your
county Consumer Affairs Office.
- Place a fraud
alert on your credit report by calling the 3 credit reporting agencies
2. Experian 1-888-397-3742
3. Trans Union 1-800-680-7289
2. Summertime means
pools, patios, additions and other major construction projects. Following
are several tips to protect you from unscrupulous contractors who may
take your hard earned money and do a shoddy job, or fail to start or
complete the job in a timely manner:
- As of December
31, 2005 all home improvement contractors must be registered with
the State Office of Consumer Affairs, unless specifically exempt.
Contact the State Office of Consumer Affairs to see if the contractor
is registered. The phone number is 973-504-6200.
- Have at least
3 contractors give you an estimate.
- Ask what types
of insurance they have, how long they have been in business, and whether
they are sub-contracting any of the jobs out to other contractors.
- Do not pay-in-full
up front for the job. Most contractors require 1/3 down at signing,
1/3 halfway through the job, and 1/3 at satisfactory completion.
- All contracts
over $500.00 must be in writing, and must have the legal name and
address of the company. (P.O. Boxes are not legal addresses)
- They must also
have a start and completion date, a full description of the work to
be done, and the total price.
- Be sure all construction
permits are obtained from the municipal building office. Final inspections
must be done before final payment is made.
- Contracts signed
after December 31, 2005 may be cancelled by a consumer for any reason
before midnight of the third business day after the consumer receives
a copy of the contract
If you are unable
to resolve a complaint with the contractor, you should contact your
local Consumer Affairs Office to file a complaint.