As New Jersey residents slowly attempt to recover from Hurricane Sandy and make the necessary repairs to their homes, the Christie Administration is warning consumers to watch out for home improvement scams.

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"We know from past experience that fly-by-night contractors who are incompetent, dishonest, or both, will descend upon the storm-affected areas in the coming days and weeks, seeking to capitalize on those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed," explained Governor Chris Christie. "Customers must be extremely wary and do their due diligence before they hire anyone, sign any contract, or pay any money for home repair."

New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa added, "No matter how urgent or desperate your need for repairs, you must stop and take the time to learn all you can about any contractor who solicits you."

Property owners can contact the state Division of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-242-5846 to learn whether a contractor is registered in New Jersey and if the business has been the subject of any consumer complaints.

OTHER TIPS FROM THE STATE

  • It is not customary to pay for an entire home improvement project in advance. The general rule of thumb is to pay no more than one-third beforehand, one-third halfway through and one-third upon completion.
  • Never give your credit card number or financial information to strangers over the phone or on the Internet.
  • Before hiring a contractor, demand a copy of the liability insurance policy, and contact the insurer to make sure the policy is valid.

Last year, the Division launched an undercover operation based at a home damaged by Hurricane Irene. The sting resulted in criminal and civil charges against 11 allegedly unregistered contractors.