Hurricane Sally: Be on the Alert for Scams
“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.” — Federal Communications Commission
TIPS TO IDENTIFY STORM-RELATED FRAUD / SCAMS:
1. A contractor or restoration professional who offered to waive or discount your insurance deductible.
2. A contractor or restoration professional that has received payment and has failed to provide any repairs to your home.
3. A contractor or restoration professional who offered to provide repairs at a cash-only discounted rate and has failed to provide repairs to your home.
4. A contractor or restoration professional who pressured you to sign an AOB and has failed to provide any repairs to your home or stopped responding to your contact attempts.
FEMA encourages survivors and business owners to be vigilant for these common post-disaster fraud practices:
Housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA.
- Be cautious if somebody asks for your nine-digit registration number. A FEMA inspector will NEVER ask for this information. They already have it in their records.
- Don’t give anyone your banking information. FEMA inspectors NEVER require banking or other personal information such as a Social Security number.
Fake offers of local or federal aid.
- Don’t trust someone who asks for money. Federal and local disaster workers DO NOT solicit or accept money. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration staff NEVER charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications.
- Don’t believe anyone who promises a disaster grant and asks for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
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:
- Donate to trusted, well-known charities, like the United Way of Southwest Alabama. Beware of scammers who create fake charities during natural disasters. Always verify a charity’s legitimacy through its official website. If you have doubts, you can check with Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar. You can also check with the National Association of State Charity Officials whether charities must be registered in your state and if the charity contacting you is on file with your state.
- 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 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, 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.
Download a printable version – .20-H.S. After the Storms – Watch out for Scams
Many storm victims haven’t lost their homes completely, but merely need repairs. Enter fraudulent contractors, hoping to take your money without doing any real work.
- Get a recommendation. Your best bet for avoiding scams would be to choose a contractor that either you know and trust, or that someone you trust has used before.
- Check for a license. Though licensing works differently in every state, a contractor who has a professional license is definitely a good sign. Ask for proof of insurance, too, so that you’re not penalized for any contracting accidents.
- Watch out for a FEMA”endorsement.” This is where it gets really tricky. An “endorsement” sounds totally scam-free, but don’t let this fool you. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not certify contractors.
- Don’t pay up front. Any contractor who asks for full payment before any work is done is a major red flag. Don’t hand over all of the money immediately; a shady scammer will take it and run.
Fake rental listings
If you’re a storm victim, make sure you don’t also become a victim of a scam. Many people whose homes were damaged by the storm will be searching for new places to live, whether temporary or not. If you’re looking for new housing after a disaster, keep these tips in mind.
- Make sure you’ve seen the place you’re renting. Before you hand over any money, make sure that you’ve seen the place—and not just on the Internet. As tempting and convenient as it might seem to hand over a deposit, hold off until you know the renter is trustworthy.
- Make sure you’ve seen the person you’re renting from. Again, seeing is believing. Knowing that you’re renting from a real person is definitely a good sign that you’re not being scammed.
- Don’t provide important information over the Internet. Don’t disclose your bank account information or credit card number over the phone or the Internet, and definitely don’t wire money.
SOURCE: Readers Digest – August 27, 2020
OTHER SOURCES TO HELP AVOID SCAMS
Scams are like viruses, she says: They are constantly evolving to become resistant to current remedies. So the Fraud Watch Network keeps changing as well, to develop new ways to help you stay safe.
How to avoid getting scammed through Hurricane Sally donations – WKRG September 24,2020