Avoiding Disaster Scams

In times of crisis, it is heartwarming to see so many people band together to help those who are in need. Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, public acts of violence are all situations in which people will pitch in and show their support. Organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, will take donations of food, blood, and money to send to affected people and devastated areas.

Unfortunately scam artists see these situations as opportunities to make a profit and not as a time to help people in need. One of the more common scenarios is a con artist posing as a relief group or charity organization. The victim will receive either an email, phone call, or a text asking if they would like to donate money to help the most recent disaster relief.  Sometimes the thief will identify themselves as  a member of a legitimate organization. Other times they will say they are from a group that sounds similar to one you may already know or a government agency. They will almost always ask for your credit card information and sometimes they will want your banking info and social security number.

In all of these events, the money is not going to help the intended disaster victims. To insure the funds go where they are supposed to, only donate directly to known charities. The Better Business Bureau has a list you can use to verify if a company is real, or locate one that is safe to donate to. http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/ Do not respond to email or phone solicitations to donate. Many charities are too busy helping with the relief effort to call consumers asking for money.

Sadly, scammers don’t stop at the Good Samaritans when it comes to disaster relief scams.  Scam artists will target the victims themselves and prey on their desperation, loss, and emotional turmoil. Again, they will often pose as a relief group or government agency. They will promise to deliver relief funds to the victims after they have given up personal information such as social security numbers and banking information. 

The thieves know that most victims of a disaster will not have time to check their credit card statements or credit reports so the thieves will have more time to exploit their personal information. Victims of a disaster should only speak to FEMA and known charity groups, many of which do not ask for personal information. Do not trust phone calls or other solicitations for relief help. Research these organizations before giving your information.

In a disaster situation it is easy to want to help those in need as well as try to get any and all help that you can. It is important to keep your head, no matter what the situation, and to be cautious. There are many good people out there who only want to help, but there are also those who do not care about the suffering of their fellow man and only wish to profit from other people’s misery.

“Avoiding Disaster Scams” was written by Kat Rocha.  Kat is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center.  The Identity Theft Resource Center is a non-profit organization helping victims and potential victims of identity theft.  For more information visit www.idtheftcenter.orgWe welcome you to post/reprint this article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to www.idtheftcenter.blogspot.com

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