Whether you're starting to assess the damage from a Hurricane, a recent flood, a wildfire, or another natural disaster, be aware that scammers target people just trying to recover.
How to avoid common post-disaster scams.
- Beware of immediate cleanup and repair promises: Be skeptical of anyone promising immediate cleanup and debris removal or repairs. Some may quote outrageous prices, demand upfront payment, or lack the necessary skills. Don't believe any promises that aren't in writing.
- Verify credentials: Before you pay, ask for IDs, licenses, and proof of insurance. It's essential to check out any contractors before you hire them. This will help avoid any potential scams or unskilled work.
- Use safe payment methods: Avoid paying by wire transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency, or in cash. Scammers prefer these methods as they can quickly obtain your money, making it nearly impossible for you to get it back. Also, never make the final payment until the work is done, and you're satisfied.
- Protect your personal information: Be careful about who you share your personal information with. Scammers may pose as government officials and demand money or your credit card, bank account, or Social Security number. Remember, legitimate entities will never ask for these details out of context.
- Understand FEMA's protocols: Know that FEMA doesn't charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, it's probably a scam. Only use official FEMA channels for assistance.
- Beware of rental scams: Be cautious of rental listings that demand security deposits or rent before you meet or sign a lease. It's best to meet in person and view the property before making any commitments.
- Spot disaster-related charity scams: In the aftermath of disasters, many fake charities emerge. Do your research before donating to ensure your money goes to a legitimate cause and not into the pockets of scammers.
- Get professional advice: Consult a lawyer or a trusted professional before signing any contract, especially if it involves a significant amount of money. They can help you understand the terms and avoid potential pitfalls.
- Report Scams: If you suspect that a scam has targeted you, report it to your local law enforcement and to the Federal Trade Commission. This will help protect others from falling victim to the same scam.