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Watch out for scams after a disaster strikes

Disaster_recovery_infographic_2020.thumbnailFollowing Hurricane Ida, flooding in Tennessee and on the East Coast, the wildfires in the West, and other natural disasters scammers are on the scene preying on people who are trying to recover.

Colleen Tressler, attorney for the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, offers tips on ways you can avoid common post-disaster scams:

  • Be skeptical of anyone promising immediate clean-up and debris removal. Some may quote outrageous prices, demand payment up-front, or lack the skills needed.
  • Check them out. Before you pay, ask for IDs, licenses, and proof of insurance. Don’t believe any promises that aren’t in writing.
  • Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency, or in cash. And never make the final payment until the work is done and you’re satisfied.
  • Guard your personal information. Only scammers will say they’re a government official and then demand money or your credit card, bank account, or Social Security number.
  • Know that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, that’s probably a scam.
  • Be wise to rental listing scams. Steer clear of people who tell you to wire money or ask for security deposits or rent before you’ve met or signed a lease.
  • Spot disaster-related charity scams. Scammers will often try to make a quick profit from the misfortune of others. Check out the FTC’s advice on donating wisely and avoiding charity scams.

If you suspect a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and your state attorney general.

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