Wednesday, September 28, 2016

25 Sure Fire Ways to Avoid a Scam During a Natural Disaster



... Tips on Donating After a Natural Disaster and How to Avoid Scammers 

When a natural disaster occurs, many criminals take advantage of victims by defrauding them for money during a time when many are experiencing hardships and loss. There are hundreds of scams but the most common as identified by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) such as social media, job, charity, sweepstakes and lottery, home improvement, check cashing, phishing, identity theft, penny actions, and BBB scam.  

The Department of Labor provides resource information on how to recover from a hurricane. FTC has a list of 21 ways that criminals steal money on its Hurricane Recovery website at https://www.dol.gov/general/hurricane-recovery. Unfortunately, no one is immune to scams but there are some warning signs. Here are 25 ways to avoid being a victim of a scam during a natural disaster.

  1. Do not provide financial information before work is performed.
  2. If you need to apply for a loan for repairs, the person recommends a lender.
  3. Ask for identification and carefully examine it if someone knocks on your door.
  4. Ask for an office number and call the office to verify the person’s identity.
  5. Look to see if the vehicle the person is driving is a company vehicle and write down the drivers’ license number, make, model, color, and license plate of the vehicle.
  6. Ask questions about why they are knocking on your door, why they feel you need their services and why you should do business with them.
  7. Avoid answering personal questions or respond no to personal questions such as How long have you lived here? Whom do you live with? Can I see the inside of your home? or Can I walk around your property? Can I use the restroom or can I use your phone?
  8. Do not let a stranger into your home.
  9. Avoid giving your personal and financial information online or over the phone.
  10. If you are a woman and live alone, tell the person you will get back to them.
  11. Look at any documentation provided and tell the person you will review it and get back to them. If the person pressures you into signing the document or agreeing to do business that day tell them you will report them to the BBB for harassment.
  12. Do business with reputable companies who are licensed and bonded. Request a copy of their certificate of liability insurance. Get referrals from family members or friends.
  13. Get at least three price quotes for repairs and loans and compare them. If there are huge differences in price, schedule, terms, and conditions ask questions.
  14. Ask for three references of past customers.
  15. Check the BBB website to see if there are any complaints against the person or perform an internet search to look for any negative information on the company.
  16. Get the contact information of the person who will be inspecting the work.
  17. Get a lien waver from the person or company performing the work.
  18. Do not pay the person in full until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
  19. Do not sign any contract or documentation that has blank fields. The person should complete the necessary information before providing the documentation to you to complete.
  20. Discuss the proposed work with your insurer adjuster prior to signing any documentation. 
  21. Businesses do not contact you by email or use pop-ups to ask for your personal information or account number online. Call the company and ask them to verify if they sent you an email. 
  22. Know the status of your account such as personal information you provided to the company, status of your account (open, closed, etc.), balances and outstanding charges. 
  23. Use spam filters on your email accounts. If you click a link by accident, close the browser immediately and go to the valid website to access your account. Change your password and notify the company that you received a phishing email. Create PINs and passwords that cannot easily be guessed. 
  24. Beware of fraudulent checks. Ask the company to send you a money order instead of a check. This reduces your chances of cashing a fraudulent check and allowing the company access to your bank account information. 
  25. If you feel you were a victim of a scam report the incident to the Better Business Bureau, FBI, US Postal Service or FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en.

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