Crisis Related Scams
Just what is a crisis related scam? Well, it is exactly what is sounds like. If a crisis, like the recent Hurricane Ian, happens, the scammers come to attention. These scams happen ever time a crisis hits somewhere in the world. Whether it’s an act of nature (tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, etc.), a human-inflicted (bombings, terrorist attacks, etc.) or a pandemic. Rest assured some scammer is ready and waiting out there to take advantage of vulnerable victims. Doesn’t matter where the crisis takes place, scammers will arise. They are like maggots that prey upon a rotting carcass. No matter where the rotting carcass is, maggots always seem to find it.
After a crisis, just sit back and watch
After a crisis, all you have to do is sit back and watch the onslaught of scam stories hit the airwaves. Let’s look are a current real-world crisis.
On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian hit the west coast of Florida. It was a large and destructive Category 4 Atlantic hurricane. Unfortunately, it was the deadliest hurricane to strike the state of Florida since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Ian caused widespread damage, but inflicted most its force on the states of Florida and South Carolina. I
It is no understatement to say that Ian caused catastrophic damages. Losses are estimated to be between $28-63 billion dollars. Fort Meyers and Naples, Florida were the hardest hit areas. Most of the damages were caused by flooding and millions were left without power. It is estimated that the U.S. death is 132, making Hurricane Ian the 23rd deadliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Hurricane Ian leaves, Hurricane Scams Hits!
No sooner than Hurricane Ian dissipated, that Hurricane Scams rolled ashore. Once again proving that scammers have no problem victimizing others even in their lowest moments. Whether you are directly impacted or want to help, scammers will take advantage of a natural disaster, like Hurricane Ian, to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Many of these scams start with websites looking for individuals to donate to hurricane relief and/or for victims searching for contractors to repair damages.
FBI Hurricane Ian warnings
The FBI is reminding the public to be vigilant when looking to donate to hurricane relief causes and when searching for contractors to repair damages
The following are some reminders and tips on how to avoid falling victim to charity and disaster fraud:
- Scammers may go door to door to target residents in areas affected by hurricanes. They may also call, text, or email with promises to quickly provide aid. Do not give out personal information without confirming the legitimacy of the person contacting you.
- Government workers are required to carry official identification and show it if requested. Closely scrutinize any ID you see and call the agency directly to confirm a worker’s identity if you are unsure.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal government disaster assistance agencies do not ask for financial information, and there is no fee required to apply for assistance.
- Do your research when it comes to donations. Look at charity reviews online, state regulators of charities, and charity reports and ratings by the Better Business Bureau.
- Give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust.
- Never make charitable donations by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards are safer.
- After donating, be sure to review your financial accounts to ensure additional funds are not deducted or charged.
- Don’t always trust your caller ID. Scammers often spoof agency phone numbers. It is always best to research the organization’s telephone number and call directly to verify. Do not be pressured or rushed to donate because it may be a scam.
- Do not click on links from sources you don’t know. Unknown links could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone. Manually type out links instead of clicking on them.
- Be wary of charity names which sound very similar to well-known charities, as well as email addresses that are not consistent with the charity soliciting donations.
- Verify the charity’s website URL as most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com.
What to do if you believe you are crisis scam victim
Because the prevalence of crisis related scams is recognized as a real thing, the National Center fro Disaster Fraud (NCDF) has been created. This center is the result of a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and various law enforcement and regulatory agencies. Its purpose is to form a national coordinating agency within the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice to improve and further the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of fraud related to natural and man-made disasters, and to advocate for the victims of such fraud.
Coincidentally enough, the NCDF was established in 2005 in the wake of another disastrous hurricane. Hurricane Katrina, like the more recent Hurricane Ian, caused over 1,800 fatalities and $125 billion in damage. The NCDF is now the national coordinating agency for all man-made and natural disasters. NCDF’s Gulf Coast headquarters is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Since 2005, the NCDF has received over 220,000 complaints.
If you believe you are a victim of disaster or charity fraud, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or online at justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm