High School students comes out on top 5th consecutive year

HOWELL, NJ – Freehold Township High School came up winners of the 16th annual Monmouth County Consumer Bowl, a game-show-style competition for teams of high school students.

Students from nine high schools answered consumer-related questions in a multiple choice and open-ended format to test their knowledge of consumer issues, such as Internet fraud and buying and leasing automobiles. The contest was held today at the Monmouth County Fire Academy.

The five-member team from Freehold Township High School successfully defended its 2012 Monmouth County Consumer Bowl title against students from Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Howell, Keansburg, Manalapan, Marlboro, Middletown North and St. John Vianney.

“It’s important that teens understand consumer and business concepts, like credit and identity theft, banking and fraud, marketing and advertising,” said Annmarie Howley, director of the county Department of Consumer Affairs. “Consumer Bowl participants are a step ahead of their peers with their knowledge of consumer issues and are well-prepared to tackle issues in the marketplace.”

The three finalists, Freehold Township High School, Howell Township High School and Manalapan Township High School, were even going into the bonus round, but Freehold Township was quicker on the draw and answered most of the questions correctly. Team members are Samantha Fitzgerald, Samantha Sanchez, Joanne D'Avella, Bethany Mo and Michael Milo. Their adviser is Dan Cooper.

The Freehold Township team will move on to the regional competition in April with home field advantage because the competition will be held at the Monmouth County Fire Academy. The winner of the regional competition will go on to compete in the 2013 New Jersey State Consumer Bowl scheduled for May in Trenton.

The New Jersey High School Consumer Bowl is a program of the state Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs. It was established in 1997 to help students learn about consumer issues that will benefit them throughout their lives. 

“The best part about this program is that all of our participating young adults gained some knowledge about what it takes to help them be smarter consumers and possibly future consumer advocates,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, liaison to the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs. “It is also a great way to promote the county’s Consumer Affairs office, which enforces consumer laws and helps people who suspect they might be victims of unscrupulous business practices.”

Since the county’s Department of Consumer Affairs was established in 1977, the department has handled more than 50,000 complaints and resolved disputes, resulting in savings to consumers of more than $13 million.

In 2012, the department recovered more than $1,000,000 for consumers. Mediation includes letters, telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and informal conferences with businesses. If a business is uncooperative and does not appear as scheduled, the Department has the authority to issue a subpoena, a function coordinated with the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office.

Consumer Affairs department is a law enforcement agency, created and funded by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. It protects against consumer fraud and dishonest and dishonest business practices by enforcing the state Consumer Fraud Act and many other regulations.

“We can assist consumers with the resolution of all sorts of consumer-related issues,” Howley said.

“The department is an active participant in the Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force,” Burry said. “People are working to rebuild their homes and their lives and the task force can help protect our residents from falling victim to fraud or deceitful business practices.”

The mission of the Monmouth County Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force is to provide a consolidated and coordinated response in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to victims of criminal and civil frauds and improper business practices in Monmouth County, dispensing appropriate investigative and prosecutorial assistance alongside civil/regulatory remedies.

Superstorm Sandy Fraud Task Force was assembled under the direction of the Prosecutor's Office with support of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders and is composed of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Monmouth County Sheriff's Office, Monmouth County Department of Consumer Affairs, Division on Aging, Disabilities, and Veterans Services, Division of Weights and Measures, Department of Health, and the Monmouth County Park System.

Additional information about fraud and other consumer affairs programs can be found on the county Web site at www.visitmonmouth.com or by calling 732-431-7900. The office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.