springing into fraud season

When I was asked to write something for the Mt. Lebanon Magazine’s Lebolife blog, I was not exactly sure where to start. As I know the skill level of the staff writers at the magazine, I was worried that I might fall short of expectations. Then I realized that this could be a great way to communicate between the community and the police department. So let’s start with an introduction.Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 8.07.23 AM

I’m Jamie Hughes. I’m a Corporal at the MLPD, currently assigned to the Crime Prevention Unit (CPU). There are two of us assigned to the CPU: myself and Officer Scott Kunz. We are the guys who do all the events throughout the community where you see a policeman…bike rodeos, school lessons, Citizen’s Police Academy and Car Show…that sort of thing. Working in the CPU is really a great job because we get to go out into the schools and community and see just how nice a place Mt. Lebanon really is.

I’ve worked for the residents of Mt. Lebanon Police Department since 1992. I have seen a lot of changes in the community and the department during that time. There have been a few things that have stayed the same as well.  One is that Mt. Lebanon statistically is a very safe community in which to live. Second, despite this fact, crime still happens here. While I do take a certain amount of pride in the fact that residents feel safe, it is also important to take steps to prevent being a victim. I spend most of my day talking to people to whom nothing will ever happen…until something does. So I am hoping to use this blog as a means to let you know how to stay even more safe than you are now.

With the Polar Vortex and endless snow, it is sometimes hard to remember that spring is right around the corner. While spring means the end of winter, it can also signal the start of a something more ominous…Contractor Fraud.contractor

As homeowners begin to emerge from their winter hibernation and address projects around the house, there are sometimes criminals looking to take advantage of those people. In 2009 the Pennsylvania Legislature attempted to address this risk by passing the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, or HICPA. In addition to requiring most contractors to register with the Commonwealth, the law also offers consumers some protections. Contractors are required to have written contracts in place if they try to sue a homeowner. The contract includes certain information which define start dates, work descriptions and insurance coverage requirements. HIPCA also defines the crime of contractor fraud. This offense includes lying about needed repairs to increase the cost of agreed upon repairs, taking upfront payments and failing to perform work or provide supplies, misrepresenting their company name or identity, damaging property to convince someone to repair that damage, impersonating a governmental employee (such as a building inspector), lying about or overcharging for special order materials, altering documents or using false or deceptive advertising.

Penalties are determined by the amount of the fraud, previous violations and the age of the victim. Homeowners should always be use care when selecting a contractor.  Even something as simple as checking the BBB rating of the business or requesting references can save a lot of trouble down the road.screwdriver

If someone come to your door soliciting for any type of business or trying to sell a product or service, he or she is required to have a Mt. Lebanon Solicitor Permit. He or she also is required to show the permit if asked, to protect the residents from potentially fraudulent door-to-door salespeople.

I hope that you find this information useful and you don’t have any of these problems. If you have a question or need to speak to me, please feel free to call me at (412) 343-4068 or email at jhughes@mtlebanon.org.  Thanks and Stay Safe.

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