It has been difficult to watch the extreme weather patterns that have been happening around the U.S. over the past few months. Fires and torrential rainstorms in California, tornadoes down south, blizzards in the Midwest and New York, and a devastating hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. It is heartbreaking to see the devastation and then on top of it, to know that fraudsters are using natural disasters to perpetrate fraud on victims who have suffered through them. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives so many complaints about these fraudsters that it issued a warning on January 18, 2023, entitled “How to spot, avoid, and report weather-related scams.”
Whether you have been the victim of a weather disaster or are in the future, or you want to assist those who are victims of a natural disaster, heed the warning of the FTC and protect yourself from these scammers.
According to the Alert:
Here are a few ways to spot the scammers who might try to take your money or personal information after a weather emergency:
- Spot imposter scams. Scammers might pretend to be safety inspectors, government officials trying to help you, or utility workers who say immediate work is required. Don’t give them money, and do ask for identification to verify with whom you are dealing before sharing personal information such as your Social Security or other private account numbers.
- Spot FEMA impersonators charging application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, it’s a scam. Download the FEMA Mobile App to get alerts and information. Visit FEMA.gov for more information.
- Spot home improvement and debris removal scams. Unlicensed contractors and scammers may appear in recovery zones with promises of quick repairs or clean-up services. Walk away if they demand cash payments up front, or refuse to give you copies of their license, insurance, and a contract in writing.
- Spot rental listing scams. Scammers know people need a place to live while they rebuild. They’ll advertise rentals that don’t exist to get your money and run. The scammers are the ones who tell you to wire money, or who ask for security deposits or rent before you’ve met or signed a lease.
- Spot charity scams. Scammers will often try to profit from the misfortune of others, sometimes using familiar-sounding names or logos. Check Donating Wisely and Avoiding Charity Scams [https://consumer.ftc.gov/features/how-donate-wisely-and-avoid-charity-scams] before opening up your wallet.
If you are the victim of a scammer, report the incident to the FTC. Stay safe during these uncertain times and avoid being victimized twice: once by the weather and again by a scammer.