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How To Avoid Financial Scammers After A Disaster

Natural disasters bring out the best in some people, but the worst in others. As the nation grapples with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, victims of the storm’s wrath should also be on alert to avoid becoming victims of financial scammers looking to make a quick buck off those who have already lost so much.

It’s important to take a look a the inner workings of these scams to better understand how good people end up losing a lot of money. The scams themselves are timed so that criminals can take advantage of natural disasters to steal money from unsuspecting individuals.  Since a lot of people will give voluntarily to charities to help their fellow humans after disasters occur, scammers often set up fake charities to steal money from those wanting to donate.

The Federal Trade Commission is urging [1] the public to be cautious of potential charity scams and recommends doing some research before donating to ensure that your money will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised. The FTC also offers the following tips to consider before you make a donation: [2]

Of course, phony charities are only one-way scammers try to get your hard earned money.  Many like to take advantage of the actual disaster victims – for the second time.  As if dealing with a hurricane isn’t enough, Frank Dorman, a public affairs specialist with the Federal Trade Commission, noted that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) [9]reported a “robocall scam [10]” in which the message states that your flood insurance premiums are due.  People living in the disaster zone are told to pay up in order to be covered for an upcoming disaster. “In order to have coverage for Hurricane Harvey, consumers are told they need to submit a payment immediately,” Dorman noted. “Don’t do it. Instead, contact your insurance agent.” But that isn’t even the worst scam when it comes to taking advantage of those who have already suffered during a disaster.


After natural disasters, many unlicensed contractors and scammers often come into the affected area promising quick repairs at discount prices, Dorman warned. “Always ask contractors for references and call previous clients,” Dorman said. “Write down the driver’s license and vehicle information – make, model, and license plate number – in case you need to report the contractor to authorities.” It’s also important to be skeptical of people promising immediate clean-up and debris removal in exchange for cash. “Some may demand payment up-front for work they never do, quote outrageous prices, or simply lack the skills, licenses, and insurance to legally do the work,” Dorman said.  If you wish to hire someone to help with cleanup on your property, make sure you do the following to avoid being scammed:

The BBB also warns homeowners affected by natural disasters to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting businesses. [2] “Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver,” Katherine R. Hutt, BBB national spokesperson said. “Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver,” Hutt said.

At the end of the day, it’s up to us to protect ourselves from the financial (and other) predators out there. This is by no means a complete list of the measures you can take to protect yourself, nor is it complete in the manner in which people may attempt to scam another.  Be cautious and aware at all times. No amount of government or lack thereof will stop bad people from doing bad things but you can be prepared, and trust your gut instincts.  You are responsible for your own life and this guide should be a starting point to help you recognize scammers wanting to make a quick buck off of your misery.


It happens every time there is a disaster - people crawling out of the woodwork to take advantage of others. Know the sales tactics and how to avoid the financial scammers.