Disaster Scams: How to Avoid Them and What To Do
This article provides information about coping after a disaster and the national center for disaster fraud. This material is from the Federal Trade Commission.
As the Federal Trade Commission's website says, although you may have lost your belongings in a weather emergency, you haven't lost your good judgment. You can protect your personal information and finances by following a few rules:
- Ask to see the ID of anyone who wants to enter your home or business. Check them out with your state and local consumer protection officials. Check signage on trucks and cars for local addresses and phone numbers. Deal with contractors from your community.
- Before you give out your personal information, make sure you really need to, and ask for identification. Some scam artists masquerade as safety inspectors or utility workers who say immediate work is required. They may actually be casing your place and seeking personal information. Ask for identification before you let anyone in, and make sure you can believe it by checking out the company. Learn how to guard against identity theft in the aftermath of a disaster.
- Don’t believe any promises. Get more than one estimate for repairs or service.
- Don’t pay the full price for service work until the service is completed and you’re satisfied with the work.
- Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay cash for their services.
- Be aware that some people are imposters who claim they can help you qualify for FEMA funds for a fee. FEMA does not charge application fees.
- Verify the credentials of anyone who is offering you low-interest government loans. Contact the agencies to confirm the offers.
- Shop around. Some businesses advertise "disaster" sales offering appliances and major electronics at reduced prices. While these could be bargains, they also could be gimmicks.
- Don't sign documents you don’t understand. Ask someone you trust, like a family member, to read them with you. You can always ask the company or organization what the fine print means, but it’s what’s in writing that matters—not what someone tells you. If you’re not satisfied with the business’s response, take your business somewhere else.