|Trenton, NJ –Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable III today warned Sandy recovery program participants to be cautious when contacted by home visit, email, or phone from individuals purporting to represent the programs – especially if those individuals ask for money transfers or personal financial data.
“Our Statewide Sandy Fraud Working Group is pursuing aggressive criminal and civil actions against those who allegedly sought illegal profits in the wake of this national disaster. But the best protection against fraud is the vigilance and awareness of our citizens. Never give money or personal information to someone who claims to represent the State’s Sandy recovery programs. If someone seeks to access your home for an inspection, do not let them in without first verifying their legitimacy,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
The Department of Community Affairs has received several reports from Sandy recovery program participants who said they were visited at their homes by individuals claiming to be representatives of the recovery programs, and who requested access to their homes.
Other program participants reported receiving home visits, phone calls, or emails, also from individuals who claimed to be program representatives and who asked for money transfers or personal financial information.
“It is outrageous that there are those who seek to illegally profit from the suffering caused by a natural disaster,” said Commissioner Constable. “There are a number of simple precautions that homeowners and tenants can take to protect themselves from the unscrupulous. A basic rule of thumb to remember is that all significant transfer of important information takes place at one of our Housing Recovery Centers. Be cautious of anyone seeking a transaction that does not take place at one of these centers.”
Commissioner Constable noted that there are no fees to enroll or participate in any Sandy recovery program. Representatives of the State’s Sandy recovery programs will not ask for payments during a home visit or via phone or email. Simply ask the person to leave your home, hang up the phone, or ignore any email that asks for payment.
Commissioner Constable also noted that legitimate representatives of the State’s Sandy recovery programs may need to access the homes of program participants. However, any legitimate program representative who conducts home inspections will have proper photo ID. Participants should therefore demand that the person show his or her photo ID.
Program participants who have any doubts or questions about someone who claims to represent the Sandy recovery programs should call the following hotlines:
If your program manager is CBI-Shaw, call 855-287-7736 to identify the person scheduled to inspect your home.
If your program manager is Gilbane, call 609-671-4200 to identify the person scheduled to inspect your home.
If you do not know who your program manager is, contact your Housing Recovery Center or your Housing Advisor. If you have not yet been assigned a housing advisor or a program manager, or if you have any questions, contact the Sandy call center at 1-800-SandyHM (1-800-726-3946).
To report suspected fraud, call the Attorney General’s Statewide Sandy Fraud Hotline, 855-SANDY39 (855-726-3939) or visit www.StopSandyFraud.org.
New Jersey’s Statewide Sandy Fraud Working Group, within the Office of the Attorney General, is New Jersey’s central clearinghouse for data-gathering, investigation, and prosecution of civil and criminal fraud related to Superstorm Sandy and the disaster recovery process.
Since March, the Attorney General’s Office – working with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and federal partners, including HUD, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Small Business Administration – has brought criminal charges against six homeowners who allegedly filed fraudulent applications for federal Sandy relief funds. Those efforts to detect and aggressively prosecute fraud in Sandy relief programs are continuing.