Natural disasters are devastating for the people caught in their path. Trying to figure out what to do after losing a home, business, or loved one is a grueling experience, and criminals like identity thieves and clean-up scammers are keen to use tragedy as an opportunity to steal victims’ money.
As the Federal Trade Commission points out in a recent blog, five states are dealing with the aftermath of recent tornadoes:
That’s why the FTC released more than a half-dozen tips that taxpayers can follow to avoid falling victim to “post-disaster scams,” like shady clean-up crews and fake charities.
Here’s the list:
- 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, cryptocurrency, 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 a government 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.
To make it easier for taxpayers to spread this advice around their neighborhoods, the agency created a one-page infographic that includes six of the seven tips, which are divided into two categories: “Avoid Clean-up & Repair Scams” and “Spot Imposters.”
For a copy of the infographic or to read the full FTC blog, check out the source link below.
Source: “How to spot, stop, and report post-disaster scams,” FTC.gov