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Disaster Recovery Scams Prey on Victims and Donors

Scams often follow disasters. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns to expect scams that prey on disaster victims in need of assistance and generous Americans hoping to contribute to the recovery. Here’s how to protect yourself.

For people considering donating:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight.
  • Look closely at the names of the organization. Some fake charities try to gain your trust by using names that are similar to legitimate charitable organizations.
  • Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer or don’t like the answer you get, consider donating to a different organization.
  • Do not give out personal or financial information – including your credit card or bank account number – unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • Never send cash. You can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
  • Don’t donate to unknown individuals that post their needs on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They may actually be fake victims.
  • Check out a charity before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org.

Find out how to donate effectively and safely.

Homeowner victims:

Fraudsters target disaster-affected areas, hoping to cash in on property owners’ insurance settlements and financial relief from the federal government. Home and business owners who need to hire a contractor should:

  • Check the contractor’s identification, and references as well as licensing and registration requirements.
  • Ask for copies of the contractor’s general liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
  • Avoid paying more than the minimum in advance.
  • Deal with reputable people in your community.
  • Beware if the contractor comes door-to-door or seeks you out
  • The FTC’s 3 Day Cooling Off rule gives you three business day to cancel home repair work, without penalty.
  • Call local law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau if you suspect a con.