Hurricane season is in full swing. With hurricanes Florence, Isaac, and Helene on the horizon, a brewing storm of fraudsters and scams are silently waiting to prey on people’s weaknesses. Because of the threat of these looming scams, the FTC has sent warnings advising people to make sure to think before donating money for relief or insurance purposes.
Back when Hurricane Harvey hit, FEMA alerted the FTC of robocalls telling homeowners and renters their flood premiums were overdue. The only way to get coverage for the damage to their homes was to submit payment immediately. This scam preyed on the sense of urgency many families felt to rebuild their lives. Even though this scam was last year, we can only assume scammers will re-up this scam this year. If you receive one of these calls, don’t panic and give in. Hang up and call your insurance to talk with them directly. Visit the FTC’s website to learn more about flood insurance, how to file a claim, and how to report suspected fraud.
Just because you aren’t a victim of these natural disasters doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, though. Scammers are always looking for a new opportunity, and people freely donating to disaster relief makes for a new easy target. The most popular post-disaster scam is scam artists calling people asking for “donations to the victims.” Of course, the money you send will never make it to the intended victims – it goes straight into a thief’s pocket.
Here are some of our tips to protect yourself from these scams:
- Donate to charities you know and trust. If you’ve given them money before and they have a proven track record of disaster relief, that’s the #1 way to make sure your money is spent wisely. When in doubt, the American Red Cross is a common charity to support for disaster relief.
- Designate your dollars to the disaster. The American Red Cross has a dedicated section of their website where you can allocate your donations straight to Hurricane Florence relief.
- Beware of “new” charities that seemingly pop up overnight. While it may seem in your best interest to donate to a charity claiming to benefit a specific tragedy directly, check it out first with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Never open links or attachments from emails you don’t recognize. We know you’re excited to help, but clicking on strange links from unknown sources could install malware on your computer and make it easier for someone to steal your identity.
- Don’t assume all charity messages on social media are legit. Just because Great Aunt Cathy retweeted the (totally made up) “@Helperz4Hurricanes” account doesn’t make it a real charity! Research the organization yourself.
Read more about wise giving on the FTC Scam Alert Blog.