Scammers Have No Conscience When It Comes To Natural Disaster Scams
If You Are In An Affected Region, Or Even Not, You Will Start Getting The Money Requests!
Natural disasters and severe weather can create opportunities for fraud in their wake, occurring at a time when people may be especially vulnerable, or targeting charitable intentions.
Scammers use phone, text, mail, email, and even go door to door to target residents of affected areas following hurricanes and damaging storms.
Watch Out for Red Flags
First, know that officials with government disaster assistance agencies do not call or text asking for financial account information and that there is no fee required to apply for or get disaster assistance from FEMA or the Small Business Administration.
Anyone claiming to be a federal official who asks for money is an imposter. This is true regardless of what country you live in.
Remember that phone scams often use spoofing techniques to deliberately falsify the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity or make the call appear to be official.
IF SOMEONE CALLS CLAIMING TO BE A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL, HANG UP AND CALL THE PHONE NUMBER LISTED ON THAT GOVERNMENT AGENCY’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Never reveal any personal information unless you’ve confirmed you’re dealing with a legitimate official. Workers and agents who knock on doors of residences are required to carry official identification and show it upon request, and they may not ask for or accept money.
Steps for Avoiding Post-Disaster Insurance Scams
If you get a phone call about an insurance claim or policy, don’t give out any personal information or agree to any payment until you can independently verify that the call is legitimate.
If the caller says they’re from your insurance company, hang up and contact your agent or the company directly using the number on your account statement. Policyholders with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP Direct) at www.floodsmart.gov or you can call 1-800-638-6620.
Contractors and home improvement companies may also call claiming to be partners with your insurance provider. Never give policy numbers, coverage details, or other personal information out to companies with whom you have not entered into a contract. If your state requires licensing, verify that any contractor you are considering is licensed and carries adequate insurance. Many states have online databases you can check.
Disaster Relief Charity Scams
Consumers should also be aware of scammers posing as representatives of charities seeking donations for disaster relief. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from this type of fraud:
- Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone, check the charity’s official website to see if the number you have is legitimate. If you’re using text-to-donate, check with the charity to ensure the number is legitimate before donating.
- Do not open suspicious emails. If you receive a suspicious email requesting donations or other assistance, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers regularly use email for phishing attacks and to spread malware.
- Verify the information in social media posts. Double-check any solicitation for charitable donations before you give. Crowd-funding websites often host individual requests for help but they are not always vetted by the site or other sources.
To report suspected fraud in the United States, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721. If you need to report other fraudulent activities during or following a natural disaster, please notify FEMA at 1-866-720-5721 or email@example.com. In other countries look for your local disaster relief agency or contact your local police.
Tips To Help You Avoid Post-Disaster Scams
Whether you’re getting ready to deal with the aftermath of Gulf Coast storms, Laura and Marco, dealing with the ravages of wildfires out West, reeling from the derecho that struck the Midwest, or facing another natural disaster, handling the aftermath is never easy. But when scammers target people just trying to recover, it can be even worse.
Here Are Some Additional Tips To Help You Avoid Common Post-Disaster Scams
Be skeptical of anyone promising immediate clean-up and debris removal. Some may quote outrageous prices, demand payment up-front, or lack the skills needed.
- Check them out. Before you pay, ask for IDs, licenses, and proof of insurance. Don’t believe any promises that aren’t in writing.
- Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, or in cash. And never make the final payment until the work is done and you’re satisfied.
- Guard your personal information. Only scammers will say they’re an official and then demand money or your credit card, bank account, or Social Security number.
- Know that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, that’s probably a scam.
- Be wise to rental listing scams. Steer clear of people who tell you to wire money or ask for security deposits or rent before you’ve met or signed a lease.
- Spot disaster-related charity scams. Scammers will often try to make a quick profit from the misfortune of others. Check out the FTC’s advice on donating wisely and avoiding charity scams.
Bookmark Dealing with Weather Emergencies
If a weather event or disaster may affect you, make sure you bookmark in your browser the official government websites in advance. This will let you find them quickly when needed, or when you are faced with a scam communication.
Suspect A Scam?
You can also report disaster scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Be sure you also report scam phone numbers and email addresses on the SCARS site www.Anyscam.com