Day: November 25, 2020

As Black Friday Approaches, AG Grewal & DCA Warn Consumers of Unprecedented Levels of Cyber Crime and Online Fraud

November 25, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today are warning consumers to be on the lookout for new scams and a slew of cyber-attacks targeting shoppers as the holiday shopping season kicks off, primarily online.  

According to a National Retail Federation survey, more than 60% of consumers plan to complete the majority of their holiday purchases online, up from 56% last year and the highest in the survey’s 17-year history. The surge creates a perfect storm for hackers who seek to gain access to consumers’ personal information.

Phishing, impersonation scams, fraudulent sites and malware attacks are among the most common tools used by scammers to prey on shoppers. These schemes are designed to steal financial information by convincing distracted bargain hunters to share their personal information or provide access to their electronic devices.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and Black Friday combination is like the Super Bowl for cyber criminals; they are good at the game and they’ve had time to practice and rehearse each play,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We urge New Jerseyans to stay informed and protect themselves from these attempts to score this holiday season.”

Shopping scams typically come via email, text message or phone call. Consumers may receive purported special offers or important messages about their account or purchase that require them to provide personal information or click on a link. While searching for deep discounts, consumers should be on the lookout for false advertising and unsecured sites. If products are advertised at an unusually low price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“Shoppers in New Jersey have rights and protections under the law, but internet fraud remains a growing threat, with scammers employing increasingly sophisticated tactics to take advantage of consumers,” said Paul Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Cyber pirates are out in full force to steal the holiday cheer. Taking precautions, learning how to recognize threats, and monitoring accounts are steps shoppers can take to protect themselves this holiday shopping season.”

Whether consumers plan to shop online or in-store, following these precautions can help them spot potential fraud and shop safely:

Reputation and reviews: Do your homework and research brands or merchandise by typing the name and the words “scam,” “complaint” or “reviews” into a search engine. Take into consideration a company’s reputation and what others are saying about the quality of the product or service. Be suspect of any company with only positive reviews, as they could have been paid for or manipulated.

Pricing: Make sure you know the price of the item before getting in line for the register or putting the item in your online cart. New Jersey law requires merchants to clearly mark the price of items either on the items themselves or the display where the items are located.

Refund policies: Can you return an item for a full refund? Some stores have fairly strict rules about returns. Keep all your receipts and store tags on purchased items. For online purchases, save all your email correspondence with the seller. If the item is purchased online, see if you have to pay for return shipping and handling. There can be other conditions placed on returns and refunds as well, ask about policies before you buy and before you seek to return an item.

Use familiar websites: If you know the site, go there by typing the address directly rather than clicking on a link that was sent to you. Make sure websites are not fraudulent by checking that they use the correct spelling of a business name, have operational customer service numbers, and have a real street address rather than a post office box.

Shopping Apps: Be aware that some shopping apps collect a lot of personal information. Make sure that you understand how your data will be used. Only use apps that clearly tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure.

Look for the Lock: Avoid buying anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS—instead of just HTTP. An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically to the left of the URL in the address bar or the status bar down below.

Avoid phishing scams. Watch out for unsolicited emails, texts, or calls offering a free item or letting you know there’s a problem with a delivery. Clicking on a link to verify or provide information could expose you to identity theft or allow malware onto your electronic device. When in doubt, consumers should always check the email sender details and hover over links to ensure they lead to trusted websites before clicking.  Also, use up-to-date antivirus software, which will help you avoid non-secure websites and pop-up phishing scams.

Secure networks: Do not use public Wi-Fi to do your shopping. Open networks make it easier for hackers to steal your information. Consider using a virtual private network to be safe. Make sure that your home’s Wi-Fi network is secured with a password.

Use your credit card. It’s always best to make purchases with your credit card rather than a debit card or other payment means. If any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Debit cards don’t offer the same protections. If you used a credit card, many retailers will also process a return or refund even if you lost or misplaced the receipt. Never make purchases with online sellers by giving them prepaid debit cards or wiring them money.

Gift cards: Only buy cards from reputable sellers to ensure the card is valid and was not previously used. Under state law, gift cards and gift certificates must retain their full value for 24 months after purchase. After that period, merchants are allowed to charge a dormancy fee of up to $2 a month, as long as that fee is disclosed on the card or certificate or sales receipt or package for the card or certificate. While a gift card or certificate may list an expiration date, the underlying funds never expire. The merchant must include a telephone number for consumer inquiries into the expiration date and dormancy fees on the card.

For more holiday shopping tips and information on avoiding scams, visit the Division’s website for a wealth of consumer briefs and educational materials.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or call 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Postponing Special School Elections Scheduled for January 2021

November 25, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)– Today, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 203, postponing all special school elections from January 26, 2021 to the March 2021 special school election date.

“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue to ensure that elections are held in a manner that ensures that every citizen is able to vote while conserving time and resources,” said Governor Murphy. “This change will allow special school elections scheduled for the first quarter of next year to be held on the same day, minimizing the burden on elections officials.”

Additionally, this executive order modifies Executive Order No. 193 such that notices in lieu of sample ballots for the Perth Amboy runoff election are mailed as “return service requested”, as required by current law.

Copy of Executive Order No. 203

Attorney General Grewal Issues Additional Guidance to Prosecutors on Handling Low-Level Marijuana Possession-Related Cases

November 25, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today issued additional guidance to prosecutors concerning the prosecution of low-level marijuana cases, supplementing his August 29, 2018 and November 4, 2020 guidance.

Attorney General Grewal directed all New Jersey municipal, county, and state prosecutors to adjourn, until at least January 25, 2021, any juvenile or adult case solely involving the following marijuana possession-related offenses:

  • possession of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(a)(3);
  • possession of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(a)(4);
  • being under the influence of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(c);
  • failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(d);
  • use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia under N.J.S. 2C:36-2 involving only marijuana or hashish;
  • possession of a controlled dangerous substance while operating a motor vehicle in violation of N.J.S. 39:4-49.1 involving only marijuana or hashish; and
  • any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense subject to conditional discharge pursuant to N.J.S. 2C:36A-1 involving only marijuana or hashish.

For cases involving the above-enumerated charges as well as other offenses, the Attorney General directed prosecutors to use their discretion to either postpone the case in its entirety or seek dismissal, without prejudice, of the marijuana possession-related charge(s) and proceed with prosecution of the remaining charges. Notably, today’s guidance does not affect the prosecution of cases charging distribution of marijuana or possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. 

“Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana possession-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature on the parameters for decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of regulated adult-use cannabis,” said Attorney General Grewal. “It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action.”

Previously, on November 4th, the Attorney General issued guidance to law enforcement emphasizing that they have broad discretion in handling low-level marijuana offenses, and encouraging them to exercise that discretion in light of anticipated legislative action that may decriminalize marijuana.

Attorney General Grewal reiterated that more comprehensive guidance, including direction on handling previously adjudicated matters, will follow when the Legislature provides details of the framework for marijuana decriminalization and the legalization of adult-use cannabis.

Guidance for Marijuana Possession Cases Pending in Municipal and Superior Courts: click here.

Guidance Regarding Municipal Prosecutors’ Discretion in Prosecuting Marijuana and Other Criminal Offenses, August 29, 2018: click here.

Interim Guidance on the Constitutional Amendment Legalizing Cannabis, November 4, 2020: click here.

Department of Community Affairs Issues Outdoor Dining Guidance to Help Restaurants and Similar Establishments Adapt to the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

Guidelines Outline Requirements for the Use of Outdoor Space During the Winter Months

November 25, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–The Department of Community Affairs (DCA) today issued guidance for restaurants and similar establishments on the utilization of outdoor space during the winter months.

In June, the Division of Codes and Standards within DCA provided guidance on the issuance of permits, and the use of tents, tensioned membrane structures, and canopies per the Uniform Fire Code (UFC) and Uniform Construction Code (UCC). Due to the approaching winter weather conditions, establishments that want to maintain the use of tents past November 30, 2020, are required to apply for a UCC permit from their local construction office. Additionally, a permit for any electrical equipment, electrical wiring, or mechanical equipment that would otherwise require a permit must also be filed. Municipalities are encouraged to waive permit fees for tents in use past the November 30th deadline provided that the tents meet the snow bearing requirements or meet the guidance issued today.

In addition to the UCC permit, “operational items” such as portable cooking equipment used around and/or under the tent should be maintained in accordance with the Uniform Fire Code (UFC) and addressed by the local fire official.  This would apply to the operation/usage of portable propane heaters and similar items.

“We recognize the restaurants in our state have been hit extraordinarily hard by the pandemic. We are doing everything we can to help these businesses stay afloat until we can return to more normalcy,” said Governor Murphy. “The guidance issued today is part of our effort to help ease the burden this pandemic has placed on eating establishments. We are leaving no stone unturned as we work to assist the restaurant community.”  

 “Today’s guidance demonstrates our commitment to ensuring a safe outdoor dining experience while working with business owners to meet their needs,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “We urge all our municipalities to suspend permit fees for tents as much as possible to help our restaurants survive this winter season.”

The Division of Fire Safety is constantly evaluating new products and alternative solutions to see if any are acceptable to meet the needs of outdoor dining. It is the intent of the Division to ensure that outdoor dining is done safely and in a code-compliant manner while at the same time working with business owners to meet their needs.

Tents that are already erected may not meet the structural provisions of the UCC building subcode, including winter conditions and snow loads. Local construction offices may issue a variation to allow the tent to remain under the conditions set forth in UCC. Construction officials are strongly encouraged to work with businesses to determine an appropriate variation.  When a variation is granted, a snow plan must be filed with the construction official that would take effect in the event of a forecasted weather event that would exceed the certified conditions of the variation. 

Establishments must file the UCC permit application and request for a variation, if applicable, by November 30, 2020. In order to provide sufficient time for the processing of permit and variation applications, municipalities may grant establishments a two-week extension from the November 30th deadline to remove the tent, provided that the establishment has filed a snow plan with the permit application that will be put into effect in the event of a forecasted weather event occurring within the time period of the extension.   

Dining domes, including bubbles, igloos, huts, etc., are permitted for outdoor dining, subject to applicable restrictions.  These structures, including pop-up covers, may be erected for use without a UCC permit when limited to less than 120 square feet in area.  The dome should be able to be deconstructed on a daily basis, if needed, and should be secured, but not anchored, so that it can be readily lifted for emergency evacuation.  Domes that are 120 square feet or greater in area and used during December 1 to March 31 would be subject to the UCC permit and variation provisions as noted above for tents. In either case, if temporary heating is provided (e.g. portable and/or cord and plug), the local fire official would oversee the heat source clearances.

Finally, as noted in DCA’s previous guidance, if barriers are erected around the newly created outdoor dining areas, they should provide for egress openings similar to those provided for assembly uses.  Existing plumbing facilities should be maintained within the building for use by patrons; the restaurant or similar assembly space should establish a proper protocol for maintaining social distancing for the usage of such facilities like restrooms.

In addition to the UCC, the International Code Council’s “Considerations for Converting Outdoor Spaces into Temporary Seating Spaces” provides supplemental guidance and should be utilized.  This guidance notes the applicable sections of the International Building and Fire Codes that would apply as adopted by the UCC.  It can be accessed at:

Previous guidance for Outdoor Dining and UCC/UFC permit issuance can be found at

Establishments can direct questions to DCA’s Code Assistance Unit at (609) 984-7609.

NJ State Police Release Thanksgiving Weekend Tips for Motorists

November 25, 2020

Post by Tyler Eckel

West Trenton, N.J. – The day before Thanksgiving is typically one of the busiest travel days of the year, but this holiday season has proven to be anything but typical. Although we expect fewer motorists on the road this year, the message of the New Jersey State Police remains the same. If you must travel during the holiday, we encourage you to take the time to prepare for unexpected emergencies by following a few safety tips that will surely come in handy if you find yourself in a jam. Before you head out, please consider the following:

•Fill up your gas tank
•Check fluids (including windshield washer fluid and antifreeze)
•Check tire pressure
•Bring a mobile phone charger
•Carry a flashlight with new batteries
•Bring bottles of water and nonperishable snacks
•Do not drive drowsy. Symptoms of driving tired are similar to those of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Use service areas to rest, stretch your legs, or grab a cup a coffee
•Let someone know your travel plans
•Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly

The easiest tip to follow to ensure not only your safety, but the safety of fellow motorists and pedestrians this holiday is to not get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. During the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday period, there were six fatal crashes that resulted in six deaths on New Jersey roadways. Drug and/or alcohol impairment was found to be a contributing factor in two of the crashes. These types of tragedies can be easily avoided by making responsible decisions and staying at home if you plan to drink alcohol.

The New Jersey State Police will have more than 90 additional troopers statewide during the holiday period in addition to normal patrols. Troopers will focus their efforts on speeding, aggressive driving, seatbelt usage, cell phone violations, distracted driving, and DWI.

“Although we will be celebrating the holiday differently this year, DWI education and enforcement remain a top priority for the New Jersey State Police,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Safety starts with sober driving, so we ask that you do your part by making responsible choices this holiday. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and please do not drink and drive.”

The 2020 Thanksgiving holiday period begins on Wednesday, November 25, at 6:00 p.m. and ends on Monday, November 30, at 6:00 a.m.

TPD Investigates Shots Fired Call This Morning

November 25, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Sources tell MidJersey.News that Trenton Police responded to gunfire in the area of Belmont Circle at 7:24 am and that around 12 shots were fired. The source also said that a Mercedes Series 300 silver in color was seen speeding from the scene. No further information was available.

Governor Murphy Directs U.S. and New Jersey Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Honor of Former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins

November 25, 2020

TRENTON, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy today ordered that the U.S. and New Jersey flags be flown at half-staff at all state buildings and facilities on Monday, November 30, 2020, in honor of former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins, who passed away on Monday, November 23rd. Dinkins was born and raised in Trenton, where he graduated from Trenton Central High School.

“The son of a Trenton barber and real estate broker, David Dinkins rose to lead New York City out of a time of political turmoil, seeking with a steady hand to heal longstanding rifts that had divided its residents,” said Governor Murphy. “That he was New York’s first Black mayor cemented a place for him in history, but he brought in other leaders who mirrored the City’s diversity, and initiated many of the changes that renewed its place on the world stage as a cultural center. Tammy and I send our condolences to David Jr. and Donna, and their families and friends, and all who worked alongside Mayor Dinkins. May he Rest In Peace.”

Yesterday’s MidJersey.News story here: Statements by Governor Murphy, Trenton Mayor Mayor W. Reed Gusciora, and Columbia University on the Passing of Former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins

UPDATE: Stolen Vehicle Pursuit On NJ Turnpike Between Exits 10 and 8A, Leads Host Of Charges Including: DUI, Aggravated Assault, Marijuana, Drug Paraphernalia And More

November 25, 2020

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Sgt. Philip Curry of the New Jersey State Police Public Information Bureau told MidJersey.News that yesterday at approximately 9:51 p.m., NJ State Troopers attempted to stop a Chevrolet Tahoe, later discovered to be stolen from New York, for a traffic violation on the New Jersey Turnpike inside of Interchange 10, Edison Twp., Middlesex County. 

The driver refused to stop and fled onto the Turnpike southbound inner roadway at a high rate of speed.  The vehicle continued south before exiting the Turnpike at Interchange 8A and proceeded to intentionally strike a NJ State Police vehicle before becoming disabled on Cranbury South River Road in South Brunswick, N.J. 

Troopers removed the two occupants from the vehicle and placed them under arrest.  There were no serious injuries reported. 

The driver, Ryan Williams, 25, of Bronx, N.Y., was charged with receiving stolen property, eluding, possession of marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a distributable amount of drug paraphernalia, money laundering, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, aggravated assault, and driving under the influence.  The passenger, Twinkle Murray, 29, of Bronx, N.Y., was charged with receiving stolen property.  Williams was lodged in the Middlesex County Jail pending a detention hearing, and Murray was released pending a court appearance, according to NJ State Police.

Last night’s MidJersey.News story here: Developing: Pursuit Off NJ Turnpike Ends Off Exit 8A

Illegal Clammers Busted In South Brunswick With 110 Pounds Of Thumbnail Clams

November 25, 2020

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ (MIDDLESEX)–Conservation Police Officer Recruit Bickerton, CPO Garofalo and Lt. Mascio responded to the Millstone River in South Brunswick for a report of illegal clamming. After performing surveillance, the officers performed a field inspection and issued three individuals a total of nine summonses for illegal clamming in prohibited waters. Approximately 11,000 Asian Thumbnail clams weighing 110 pounds were confiscated. All the clamming equipment was also seized as evidence.

Hamilton Crash Sends One To Hospital

November 25, 2020

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–At 8:15 am the Hamilton Township and Robbinsville Township Fire Departments were dispatched to an accident at the intersection of Yardville-Hamilton Square and Kuser Roads. Originally the 9-1-1 callers reported an overturned vehicle with entrapment but upon fire department arrival there was one minor injury and no vehicles were overturned.

Hamilton Township Police were directing traffic around the accident and also performing a crash investigation at the scene. RWJ Hamilton ambulance transported one person to RWJ at Hamilton Hospital. No further information was available.

I-195 Accident Backs Up Traffic Over 2 Miles

November 25, 2020

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–Around 6:08 am this morning 3 vehicles collided on I-195 East Bound in the area of Mile Marker 8, between Exits 7 and 8, temporarily blocking the highway. Hope Fire Company and Robbinsville Township Fire Department and EMS were sent to the scene. Upon arrival there were no life threatening injuries and persons involved refused medical advice.

Traffic was backed up over two miles until tow trucks could move the vehicles from the roadway. The NJ State Police was on scene investigating. No further information is available.