Avoiding Post-Disaster Scams

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September is National Preparedness Month

Natural disasters and severe weather in their aftermath can sometimes create opportunities for fraud, occurring at a time when most people may be particularly vulnerable, or targeting charitable intentions. Scammers are using phone, text, mail, email as well as go door-to-door after hurricanes and destructive storms to target residents of affected areas.

Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provided seven helpful tips to help individuals become aware of post-disaster scams and how to stay protected. These tips were created to avoid common post-disaster scams. 

  1. Be skeptical of those who promise immediate storm clean-up and debris removal. Outrages quote pricing, demanding up front payments, or lacking the skills needed are some ways scammers may attempt to commit clean up and repair fraud. 
  2. Check them out! Always ask for proper identification such as IDs, licenses, and proof of insurance before you pay. Have everything in writing. Do not believe anything unless you see it in writing first. 
  3. Never pay with cash, gift cards, or even utilize wire transfers. Hold off on making the final payment until all work has been completed and you are satisfied.
  4. Protect your personal information. Always safeguard your information. Scammer will pose as a representative/official and demand your banking information or social security number. 
  5. FEMA does not charge application fees! More than likely if anyone asks for money to help qualify for FEMA funds and assistance, it is a scam. 
  6. Be aware of rental listing scams. Stay away from individuals who instruct you to wire money or ask for a security deposit or rent prior to meeting or signing a lease. 
  7. Keep an eye out for disaster-related charity scams. Scammers thrive on the quick profit from the misfortune of others. The FTC has advice and information on how to donate wisely and avoid charity scams.

The full article by FTC Consumer Education Specialist, Colleen Tressler can be found on the FTC website. PDF version is provided as well. For more information on how to avoid post-disaster scams, please visit the Federal Trade Commission website.