The 3 most common scams following natural disasters (and how to avoid them)

A heavily damaged home

When tornados, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters hit, the scammers are usually quick to follow. Waiting to target people when they’re most vulnerable, these con artists take advantage of people’s helplessness, trust, and generosity. If the worst case scenario happens in your community, make sure you’re on the lookout for these scams:

Home Repair Scams:

Often called “storm chasers,” fraudsters impersonating repair workers descend on hard hit areas in need of rebuilding and restoration. Claiming to be very busy with other repairs in the neighborhood, many ask for cash to put a homeowner’s name at the top of their waiting list. Others request a large deposit for the promise of repairs that they don’t have the skills, insurance, or resources to complete. After working their way through town, they take the money and run.

Avoidance tactics:

Identity theft scams:

Scammers take advantage of those awaiting relief from government agencies and organizations by posing as an official of these groups. Calling, or even stopping by in person, they ask for personal and financial information like the homeowner’s full name and Social Security number. Once they have this data, they are able to commit identity theft and open up credit cards in the homeowner’s name.

Avoidance tactics:

Donation scams:

Even those who weren’t affected by a disaster can be targeted by related scams. Fraudsters from sham charities, or those falsely claiming to be with a legitimate organization, contact generous individuals for their donations. Describing the desperate situation many are in and stressing the immediate need for funds, they convince their targets to provide their credit card information over the phone. The card is charged and those in need never see a penny.

Avoidance tactics:

If you have a relative who is particularly vulnerable to scams – including a senior or adult with special needs – you may want to take financial protection one step further with a True Link Card. Block over-the-phone purchases, prevent charges from unscrupulous charities, or restrict transactions above a certain amount while allowing your loved one the freedom and independence to buy the things they need.

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