Beware of Fraud Following Natural Disaster

Posted on 30 January 2013

Hurricane Sandy and other destructive acts of nature bring out a humanitarian and neighborly spirit in Americans like no other events can. Unfortunately, natural disasters also attract scammers and opportunists waiting to take advantage of that benevolence in the aftermath of catastrophic events. The Better Business Bureau recently issued a warning about fraudulent charities and other scams that appear in the wake of weather-related misfortune. There are steps that can be taken to ensure you don’t become a victim during these difficult times.


Identity Theft


Natural disasters can force victims to start their lives over from scratch. This already daunting process is made even more difficult when you don’t have the necessary documents proving who and what you are. Lifelock, an industry leader in solving identity theft issues, protecting your debit card and keeping track of financial information, says Dumpster diving and mail theft are two of the most common techniques used by identity thieves to execute data breaches. But imagine a looter rummaging through your flood and storm damaged house, only to discover your original birth certificate and house deed. It’s essential to have scanned copies of all of your most important documents, including car titles, bank statements and social security card. This will speed the process in not only re-claiming what you can salvage, but also nip-in-the-bud any potential identity theft which may have already commenced.


Bogus Charities


In the old days, scammers posing as charity organizations had to make phone calls or send direct mailings soliciting “donations.” Today, it’s much easier to execute this type of fraud because of the internet. Predators will send unsolicited emails and messages on social media posing, either as a well-known relief organization or a completely fabricated one with an official-sounding name. Well-known charities, such as the Red Cross, generally don’t solicit donations via email and have official websites that donors can visit at their leisure. You can cross-check any organization you may not be familiar with on the BBB website before contributing. Another website called (SGO) provides a simple search engine, which you query their database with the name or employer identification number for the charity. The organization is likely fraudulent if no results come up.


Repair Scams


Storm victims desperate to get their lives back on track often fall victim to scammers claiming the ability to quickly repair or clean property. The results often entail the victim giving their credit card number or cash to a supposed contractor, only to never get the repairs done or receive identity theft. It’s recommended by the BBB to check the potential contractor’s accreditations and to never pay for the service in full up front. The terms and conditions of the work to be done should be in writing, and definitive dates as to when the work will be completed should be included.



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One Response to “Beware of Fraud Following Natural Disaster”

  1. angie says:

    I think it’s despicable that some nefarious individuals prey upon those who find themselves in the most vulnerable situations.

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