During natural disasters, such as hurricanes, scammers often prey on the misfortune of others. The information below from the League of Southeastern Credit Union & Affiliates will help you spot a scam and keep your money and personal information safe.
Impersonation of Government Official
In this scam a con artist poses as a government official from agencies such as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Department of Homeland Security, and/or the Department of Health and Human Services, which are responsible for helping disaster victims. These con artists will ask you to share your identification, social security information, and other personal information that can be used to steal your identity.
When seeking government aid, it is safer for you to initiate contact—you are more likely to avoid con artists. But, if a government official approaches you, ask for identification.
Remember, there are no fees when applying for governmental assistance following a disaster. Any request for fees is fraud. Never give your social security number out over the phone and do not write it down anywhere unless you are 100 percent sure you are working with a legitimate representative from a governmental agency.
Impersonating an Insurance Adjuster
Con artists will also pose as insurance claims adjusters or representatives of insurance companies. Ask for identification to make sure you are giving information to an agent from your insurance company. They will not be offended. They are aware that scam and con artists target disaster survivors.
Home Repair Scams
Following damaging storms (high winds, hail, and tornadoes), hurricanes and even earthquakes, people impersonating home repair businesses and roofing companies will visit affected neighborhoods and offer to repair damage. Red flags that you are dealing with a scammer and not a legitimate business include:
- One-day-only discounts
- Aggressive sales pitches
- Requirement of upfront payment
- You have never heard of the company, and it does not have a local, physical address.
- They cannot produce a business license or written information about the company.
- They do not have references but offer of vague endorsements from neighbors a few streets over from your street.
Never hire a contractor on the spot. Before hiring anyone to do any work on your home, get your insurance company to survey the damage. They will likely provide you with a list of approved repair companies. You can also verify that the contractor is legitimate by checking with the Better Business Bureau.
Scams during or following a natural disaster can be reported to the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721.