Although the nation recently faced one of the biggest natural disasters in the past five years, scams are an unfortunate side effect of the events. After hurricane Katrina the government created the Disaster Fraud Task Force which has prosecuted over 1,400 individuals for fraud. Unfortunately the scammers continue to prey on victims who are looking to turn their lives around after these unfortunate events.
Whether you’ve been through a hurricane, tornado, or other unfortunate event or not, it’s wise to know how these scams work and what you can do to avoid them. Here are some common scams victims of any natural disaster need to watch for while they work on getting things back on track.
- Price Gouging – this is one of the most common scams before and after a natural disaster. As supplies become limited, sellers will raise the price of much needed supplies like gasoline, bottled water, generators and home repair supplies. The best way consumers can take try to remedy the situation is by looking at prices online (if available) prior to the disaster as prices are supposed to remain the same after the storm. Consumers can also try complaining to the state attorney general about the business..
- Storm Chasers – Those in need of auto or home repair who were affected by a disaster might soon find repairmen at their doorstep. Storm chasers are just as they sound, businesspeople looking to make a quick buck from those affected by a storm. Usually they are contractors, but sometimes they may be insurance agents offering bogus home insurance. Don’t let the stress of the events cloud your judgment, research companies, contractors, and agents before you sign up for anything. Do not provide credit information either, identity theft could be part of the scam.
- Faux Charities – Due to the surge of social media use it’s likely that you come across faux charities nearly every day. These charities will pocket the money you give or could steal your personal information if you choose to donate online. When it comes to finding out how to donate for any occasion do your best to research the organization or find other ways to give back like giving blood, volunteering, or sending care packages directly to friends and family that were affected.
It’s unfortunate that many people will take advantage of those who have been disadvantaged by a natural disaster. If you or anyone you know needs to report natural disaster fraud a toll free hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 seven days a week at 866-720-5721.