Hurricane Sandy has passed leaving quite path of destruction and inconvenience. The cleanup will be occurring for a long time.

Such cleanup means costly repairs.

Be careful. Don't be scammed.

If possible, use local, qualified contractors to do your cleanup work and fix any damaged property. It could save you a lot of heartache, and a lot of dollars.

During the hailstorm a year and a half ago, numerous contractors from out of the region swarmed into the area and aggressively solicited business. We're not saying all these firms were bad.

We do know that there was work performed that fell below expectations; and when property owners tried to get them back for adjustments, they couldn't be contacted or just ignored the requests.

There's also the concern of actual crooks operating out there and especially targeting the elderly. In past months, even without storms, we've had reports of fake contractors swindling elderly property owners out of tens of thousands of dollars.

If you have an elderly relative living alone, talk to them and make sure they don't fall for some fast-talking scam artist.

Most important, if you have damage, or suspect you have damage, call your insurance company. The insurer will send adjusters to your site to determine the extent of the damage.

Once your insurer tells you the amount of damages, don't tell the contractor. Ask the contractor for an estimate.

Again, make sure you only contact reputable contractors. Check with borough officials (building inspectors, borough secretaries, etc.), friends, relatives, and local suppliers such as hardware stores or masonry supply retailers about contractor recommendations. They'll usually give you good advice.

Beware of the firms which quickly set up shop and offer quick repairs. In the long run, they could add to your misery.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]