The aftermath of a hurricane can be a lot to deal with and people are especially vulnerable during post-storm times. Some scammers may claim to work for a charity and extract money from you. Or, a contractor who wants to make repairs on your home offers you a deal that’s too good to be true. Most of the time, it is.
Scammers will use phones, send emails or texts or go door-to-door to target residents in affected areas following hurricanes. Be aware and watch out for these red flags in the aftermath of a storm.
CLAIMING TO BE CONTRACTORS
It’s one of the larger problems seen post-storm. Contractors and home improvement outfits will claim to be partners with your insurance provider, demanding your policy numbers, coverage details and other personal information. Some will ask for cash up front and pressure you to sign an “assignment of benefits” contract. Always check with your insurance agency or insurance company before signing anything. Also, check on licenses through the My Florida License website and by viewing a comprehensive list of registered contractors (PDF) on the Monroe County website.
Know that officials affiliated with government disaster assistance agencies do not call or text asking for financial information. And know there are no fees associated with applying for disaster assistance from FEMA or the Small Business Administration. Anyone who claims to be a federal official who asks for money is an imposter.
PHONY PHONE CALLS
Phone scams often involve spoofing techniques to deliberately falsify information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity or make the call appear to be official. 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 unless you’ve confirmed you’re dealing with a legitimate official. Workers and agents who knock on doors of residences are required to carry official identification and show it upon request, and they may not ask for, nor accept money.
POST-DISASTER INSURANCE SCAMS
If you get a phone call about an insurance claim or policy, don’t give out any personal information or agree to any payment until you can independently verify that the call is legitimate. If the caller says they’re from your insurance company, hang up and contact your agent or the company directly using the number on your account statement. Policyholders with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP Direct) can call 1-800-638-6620.
DISASTER CHARITY SCAMS
Consumers should know that scammers will pose as representatives from charities seeking donations following a disaster. Before giving — verify, verify and verify.
Donate to trusted, well-known charities. 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.
Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone, check the charity’s official website to see if 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.
Verify information in social media posts. Double-check any solicitation for charitable donations before you give.
To report a scam, call the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office or the State Attorney’s Office.