Scammers are always looking for new victims. Unfortunately, natural disasters and severe weather create opportunities for fraud in their wake, when people are at their most vulnerable.
Fake Flood Insurance Robocalls
Following hurricanes, fraudsters have used caller ID spoofing and robocall technology to target residents of areas hit by the storms with scam calls about flood insurance. If you receive this type of call, before giving out any personal information or agreeing to any payment, you should independently verify that the call is legitimate. Contact your insurance agent or your insurance company directly. Policyholders with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP Direct) can call 1-800-638-6620.
To report suspected fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721. If you need to report other fraudulent activities during or following a natural disaster, please notify FEMA at 1-866-720-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also file a complaint with the FTC.
Disaster Relief Charity Scams
In addition to the flood insurance scam, consumers everywhere should be aware of scammers posing as representatives of charities seeking donations for disaster relief. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from this type of fraud:
- Donate to trusted, well-known charities. Beware of scammers who create fake charities during natural disasters. Always verify a charity's legitimacy through its official website. If you have doubts, you can check with Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar. You can also check with the National Association of State Charity Officials whether charities must be registered in your state and if the charity contacting you is on file with your state.
- Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone, verify through the charity's official website that the number you have is legitimate.
- Do not open suspicious emails. If you receive a suspicious email requesting donations or other assistance, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers regularly use email for phishing attacks and to spread malware.
- Be skeptical of social media posts. Independently verify any solicitation for charitable donations before you give. If you're using text-to-donate, check the number with the charity first.
Finally, watch out for scammers impersonating federal, state, tribal and municipal authorities. If someone calls claiming to be a government official, hang up and call the number listed on that government agency's official website. Never reveal any personal information until you've confirmed you're dealing with a legitimate official. Also, all workers and agents who knock on doors of residences are required to carry official identification and to show it upon request. They also never ask for nor accept money.