As if rebuilding and recovering after a natural disaster is not difficult enough, individuals must also beware of scammers looking to capitalize off of Hurricane Ida. Unfortunately, opportunists are looking for any way to take advantage of vulnerable people devastated by the storm. The biggest types of scams to watch out for are disaster charity relief scams, insurance scams, and FEMA imposters.
Disaster Charity Relief Scams. Whenever Americans see devastation in the U.S., many people feel inspired to help in any way that they can. Often times this includes donating money or supplies to hurricane relief organizations. However, fraudsters are always ready to take advantage of those giving back.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that anybody looking to donate to help Hurricane Ida victims should do their homework before contributing.
• Donate to charities with a proven track record of dealing with natural disasters
• Be on high alert of organizations that have come up overnight in connection with current events
• Watch for the legitimacy of websites as most legitimate websites end in “.org” rather than “.com.”
• Avoid cash donations or making checks payable to individuals, instead make contributions directly to known organizations
• Do not respond to any unsolicited emails or phone calls
• Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, GuideStar, or National Association of State Charity Officials
Any fraudulent activity suspected may be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721.
FEMA Imposters. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claim adjusters are currently all-over Southeast Louisiana inspecting homes and businesses in order to assist individuals in getting federal aid. Fraudulent inspectors take this opportunity to visit people’s home, acquire personal information, and possibly even demand payment upon inspection.
It should be noted that FEMA does not solicit or accept money from homeowners for inspections, nor do they require you to give your social security number, bank account information, or any other private information. They will also never ask individuals to apply for assistance via text message. The only information a FEMA representative will need from you is a claim number. If they are a legitimate caller, the representative will already have any other information needed.
Specifically, the Better Business Bureau of South Central Louisiana is warning the public of a local grant scam. The caller will claim to be from the FEMA or another government agency and is reaching out as part of the official Assistance program for local small businesses affected by Hurricane Ida. They will state that the grant is for $15,000 and does not have to be paid back. Individuals are then directed to purchase a Walmart cash card for $250 to pay for processing the grant. Before falling for any scam, check out www.grants.gov to find a list of the only official U.S. federal grant-making agencies.
If you are skeptical of someone who claims to be a FEMA employee, call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 to confirm the adjuster was, in fact, sent by the agency.
Insurance Scams. After a disaster, crooks will do anything to benefit off of those in hard-hit neighborhoods. Dishonest companies and contractors will go door to door approaching homeowners who are eager to start rebuilding. These scammers tell individuals that they can begin repairs immediately at a discounted price, while waiving insurance deductibles. If the owner falls for this scam, the deceitful contractor then collects a signature to begin the work. However, the imposters only use the signature to collect insurance payments, and then typically disappear when they get the money.
After a devastating storm like Hurricane Ida, it is crucial to steer clear of anyone trying to take advantage of vulnerable victims. If you or someone you love has been affected by Hurricane Ida, call us today for a free consultation! PHONE CARDONE at 504-522-3333, 833-597-1818 (toll-free), 225-706-3920 (Baton Rouge office), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.