Beware of Natural Disaster Scams

When disaster strikes, so do the scams. If you live in an area that’s prone to storms and flooding, or you volunteer to help victims of natural disasters, beware of these post-disaster scams so you’re not taken for a ride.
1. Bogus charities
As soon as a natural disaster hits, fake charities spring up everywhere. Unfortunately, these scams are often successful at swindling victims out of thousands of dollars.
Never take a request for monetary aid at face value. Check out the charity’s authenticity at Charitynavigator.org and on the Better Business Bureau website. If you find the charity does exist, and is a reliable organization, make sure the website address (URL) is correct and you’re not working with a copycat site. Or, contact the charity on your own.
2. FEMA imposters
After a natural disaster, scammers impersonate FEMA representatives to collect victims’ personal information and/or their money.
If you applied for FEMA and you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the federal organization, only share your FEMA claim number over the phone. If the caller is legitimate, they’ll already have any other information they need.
If a FEMA representative shows up at your home, ask to see a FEMA-issued photo ID badge. Do not give the “FEMA rep” any of your money – or any of your personal information.
3. Shady contractors
Many so-called contractors scour storm-damaged neighborhoods to offer their services to homeowners who are seeking repairs. They may ask for upfront payment and then do a sloppy job or never complete it. Carefully research any contractor you’d like to use before hiring, and never agree to pay for all or most of the repairs before the work is done.
4. Damaged cars
Sometimes, a car that’s been in a flood or hurricane can be fixed up so to look fine on the outside despite a heavily damaged interior. Shady car salespeople might try to sell these vehicles to unsuspecting consumers who have no idea the car has been in a storm.
If you’re shopping for a car in an area that has recently been hit by a natural disaster, check out the car’s history on Carfax.com.
If you suspect fraud of any kind, let the FTC know at FTC.gov.