Residents may contact the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Office of Consumer Protection, toll free, at 1-800-242-5846 or visit www.njconsumeraffairs.gov for more information or to file a complaint.
There are ten basic steps that citizens can follow to protect themselves from being conned.
1. Check with Officials - Contact local chambers of commerce, better business bureaus, or the local police department before entering into any major contract or whenever in doubt.
2. Learn about different types of fraud and how to avoid it - Listen to consumer advocates on television and radio. read local newspapers with an eye to news stories regarding reports of fraud and questionable business practices. Education is the best defense against fraud.
3. Shop Around - Visit several businesses or talk to several sales representatives before making a major purchase. This is especially important if you feel you are receiving undue pressure to complete the deal. Get references, compare prices, and check performance claims.
4. Don't sign anything you don't understand - If necessary check with a lawyer before signing.
5. Whenever possible deal with local, well established firms.
6. Avoid Door to Door Salesman - Avoid doing business with salesman who appear at your door unsolicited.7.Verify the sales or service representative is what he claims - Ask for identification and verify it if you feel uncertain.See AlsoDealing with medical board complaintsNew Jersey board ranks low in disciplining doctors after medical errorsHow Should I Handle a Medical Board Complaint? | 215-569-1999
8. Never do unsolicited business over the telephone.
9. Never pay for services for which you are not completely satisfied.
10. Be extremely skeptical of any offer that sounds too good to be true. They usually are.11. Protect Your Identity. CLICK HERE for information from the State of New Jersey Identify Theft page. For a quick 2 page overview of Identity Theft CLICK HERE* (*Adobe Acrobat Reader Req. CLICK HERE for a free copy of the reader).
There are five things you can do if you feel you have been defrauded.
First and Foremost - COMPLAIN!
- Notify the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and if necessary, the Police Department. Don't feel embarrassed - Tell the whole story so that the scheme can be identified, the culprits apprehended and the victimizing of others avoided.
- If you paid by check, stop payment immediately.
- If you paid by Credit Card you have 60 days to dispute charges.
- Cooperate with law enforcement agencies
- Save any evidence such as receipts, cancelled checks or the product itself.
Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to consumer fraud. The following are 10 very common categories of fraud where seniors should pay particular attention when conducting business.
1. Medical Frauds - Senior citizens are much more likely to suffer from chronic ailments and health problems. As a result they are more vulnerable to quacks, miracle cures, hospital frauds, aging cures, and a variety of other medical frauds. Medical frauds can have very serious health consequences for older citizens.
2. Home Improvement Frauds - Phony repairmen often appear at a victims door posing as a city official or claiming to have been referred by a neighbor. The quickly note some serious flaw in the house requiring immediate repair. They generally specialize in roofing siding, insulation, chimney repairs, driveway sealing, and wet basements. They promise quick service at bargain prices. They often take a large downpayment and never return.
3. Bunco Schemes - Senior Citizens are often targeted for swindling schemes and confidence games. The most common variation is known as the pigeon drop. An older person is approached by strangers who claim to have found a large bag containing cash. Through a series of deceptions the victim is convinced to put up "good faith" money to share in the find. The victim is asked to place the money in a purse for safekeeping. In the final deception the victim is distracted and the parcel containing his money is switched.
4. Insurance Frauds - The most common type of insurance fraud targeted to seniors involve medigap insurance. This insurance is said to cover gaps in medicare coverage. Consumers should read these policies carefully and seek more information before signing.
5. Charity Frauds - These frauds are particularly heinous because they exploit a person's generous nature and willingness to help others. The most frequent types involve bogus charities or religious groups, misrepresentation of association with those charities and misrepresentation of how contributions will be used.
6. Housing and Land Frauds - In this type of fraud, advertisements are targeted to unwary seniors designed to persuade them to buy property sight unseen. The property often turns out to be unusable. Some frauds specifically target time sharing properties, vacation homes and retirement homes.
7. Business and Investment Opportunity Frauds - For the elderly, retirees, and others living on a fixed income, business and investment frauds are a powerful attraction. For a relatively modest amount, the victim is offered the promise of great returns. Work at home schemes are another fraud that takes advantage of an elderly person's need to augment a limited income.
8. Nursing Home Frauds - Senior Citizens are sometimes conned into paying an "admission fee" to purchase a place in a Medicaid facility, overcharged for specific services, defrauded out of personal funds, and forced to pay extra for services and supplies that should be included in the nursing home's regular rate.
9. Automobile Frauds - Automobile frauds usually consist of artificially increasing the dealer's profit margin, misrepresenting the car's performance or history, or substituting a similar car with fewer options for the one purchased.
10. Funeral frauds exploit a family's vulnerability during a time of grief. They take advantage of a family's desire to provide the best possible care for the deceased. Common abuses include unauthorized removal of remains from a hospital or nursing home by a funeral director not enlisted by the family and charges for costs such as flowers and obituary notices which were not disclosed when costs were initially discussed.
New Jersey's existing Do Not Call law provides the following:
- Prohibits telemarketers from calling New Jersey residents who have placed their residential and/or mobile phone numbers on the national “Do Not Call” registry
- Prohibits telemarketers who haven't registered with Consumer Affairs from calling any New Jersey resident
- Prohibits all telemarketers from calling New Jersey residents between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.
- Bars telemarketers from intentionally blocking the customer's use of caller identification
- Requires telemarketers, including sellers that carry out “any plan, program or campaign” to sell merchandise to consumers in New Jersey to register annually and disclose certain information about their business operations and principals
- Imposes stiff penalties against violators of up to $10,000 for the first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense
- Covers most telemarketing sales calls regardless of where the telemarketer is calling from
- Requires telemarketers and sellers to maintain in-house “Do Not Call” lists pertaining to “existing customers” who have said they do not want to receive sales calls from the telemarketers
- Prohibits telemarketers from calling New Jersey residents on their cell phones, except in very limited circumstances
To register phones, go to http://www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
To file a complaint about a violation of the state’s Do Not Call law, contact the Division at
1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within N.J.) or 973-504-6200.
Federal Ban on “Robocalls”
Under a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule, prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls, known as “robocalls,” cannot be placed to consumers unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from those who want to receive such calls. Robocalls are permitted from charitable organizations and political organizations, as is currently allowed under the state’s Do Not Call law.
Consumers who receive robocalls may file complaints with the FTC at http://www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
Identity Theft is the fraudulent use of your name and identifying data and occurs when your personal information is used for someone elses' financial gain. CLICK HERE for information from the State of New Jersey Identify Theft page. For a quick 2 page overview of Identity Theft & Phishing CLICK HERE*.
Phishing is an illicit scheme where a potential perpetrator attempts to trick people into revealing their personal and financial information by pretending to be from a legitimate company, agency or organization. Phishing can occur by email or phone and can be extremely sophisticated and convincing. CLICK HERE to view information on Phishing available on New Jersey's Consumer Affairs web site. For more information CLICK HERE to go to Phishinginfo.org. For a quick 2 page overview of Identity Theft & Phishing CLICK HERE*,