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  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , FEMA, , , ,   

    Tornado victims could also be victims of scams 

    Tornado victims could also be victims of scams

    By Greg Collier

    The other day, we discussed how charity scams could follow in the wake of the recent tornadoes that struck the South and Midwest. We’d be remiss if we didn’t also discuss the scams that could be targeting the tornado victims. As is almost always the case, whenever disaster strikes, scammers are sure to follow. It doesn’t matter how extensive the damage or loss of life is, scammers have no qualms about preying on those who’ve already lost everything. Once again, the State of Kentucky has issued a warning to its residents about these potential scams. While you may not currently live in a disaster area, having these tips will leave you better prepared in case you are.

    Disasters like this, and others, will always bring in the shady contractors. They usually come from out of state and approach the property unsolicited. Scammers will ask you to pay in full upfront. Legitimate contractors will have licenses that you can ask to see along with their proof of insurance. Scammers will take your money and do little if any work repairing your home. The State of Kentucky has also warned its residents to be wary of any contractor who claims to be FEMA certified or FEMA referred them to you. FEMA offers no such certification or service.

    Speaking of FEMA, another popular disaster scam is when scammers pose as FEMA but claim they need a payment in order to offer you any kind of disaster relief. This is known as the advance fee scam. FEMA impersonators may also try to steal your identity by asking for personal information.

    The same goes for phone scammers who may try to impersonate your home insurance company. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your insurance company, don’t give them any personal information. Instead, you should hang up and either call your local agent or the customer service phone number listed on your policy.

    You can find more tips on how to avoid these scams at this link.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: FEMA, , obituaries,   

    Scammers are combing obituaries for new victims 

    By Greg Collier

    As we have discussed before, if you’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19, you could be eligible to have part or all of the funeral expenses paid for under FEMA’s American Rescue Plan. Under the plan you could be reimbursed up to $9,000 for funeral expenses. As you can probably guess, this has led scammers to try to take advantage of the program. In order to accomplish that, scammers need not only the information of the deceased, but the information from the surviving family members as well.

    The way scammers achieve this is by posing as FEMA agents or the organization itself. Scammers will send out robocalls, emails and text messages posing as FEMA asking victims to contact them. Any contact information the victims are given does not go to FEMA but to the scammers instead. The victims will not only be asked for personal information concerning themselves and the deceased., but they may be asked for an upfront payment disguised as a ‘processing fee’. It’s already been documented that scammers have tried to obtain the death certificates of COVID-19 victims so they can try to claim the program money for themselves.

    According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers are even combing the local obituaries to get as much information about the deceased and their families as possible. However, this scam does have its drawbacks if you know a couple of items of information. Government agencies like FEMA very rarely initiate first contact, and if they do, they will do so through traditional channels like postal mail.

    If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and require financial assistance for funeral expenses, you have our most sincere condolences. If you would like to apply for FEMA’s assistance you can do so at FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance webpage.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , FEMA, ,   

    Was a death certificate stolen for a FEMA scam? 

    Was a death certificate stolen for a FEMA scam?

    By Greg Collier

    Back in February, we discussed how scammers stopped a federal assistance program from being rolled out. As of the time of our previous post, FEMA had not started their funeral assistance program for people who passed away from COVID-19 in 2020. Due to the amount of fraud that was affecting state unemployment systems during the pandemic, FEMA decided to hold back while they came up with a potential solution. Earlier this month, FEMA announced that they would begin processing applications for funeral assistance, and it looks like the scammers may have already started to try to take advantage of the system.

    A woman in Tennessee lost her husband late last year to COVID-19. He was working the frontline as a nurse when he contracted the virus. Even though it’s been a number of months, his widow is still dealing with the loss of her husband. She recently received a call asking if she had sent her husband’s death certificate to Texas. She had not and believes that someone was using her husband’s death certificate to try to apply for FEMA benefits in his name. When this potential scam was first announced we wondered if all it would take to scam FEMA would be a forged or stolen death certificate.

    Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that you can do to protect yourself from this scam. If you ever had the unfortunate experience of arranging a funeral for a loved one and handling their estate, you know that you have to provide a copy of the deceased’s death certificate to a number of different people. The only thing that FEMA seems to be recommending at this point is that if you’ve been scammed you can call FEMA at 800-621-3362.

    Sadly, this again shows that scammers will try to take advantage of any situation no matter how devastating it may be to the victim. When scammers reach a new low like this, we’re both surprised and yet not surprised. Scammers know no bounds of human decency and will try to take advantage of anyone as long as it can make them some money.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , FEMA, , ,   

    Scams can bring federal programs to their knees 

    Scams can bring federal programs to their knees

    By Greg Collier

    Prior to the start of the pandemic, many of us looked at scammers as minor annoyances. “They might fool a few people, but they’d never be able to fool me.” many of us said. Then when the pandemic happened in full force, scammers were everywhere. Not only did every old scam have a new COVID-19 twist to it, but the scammers were now attacking federal and state governments to the tune of billions of dollars. You may not be fooled by a scammer, but as the unemployment scam showed us, you may not have a choice. Now, a federal relief program has yet to roll out due to the scams that may surround it.

    FEMA has a fund to help pay for funerals for people who were lost in certain disasters. This includes deaths related to COVID-19 for 2020. However, here we are near March 2021 and FEMA has yet to issue any assistant payments for these funeral expenses. With half a million people having passed from COVID-19, FEMA realizes that this could open them to the same amount of fraud that has affected the unemployment system. FEMA is working with the CDC to try to find a way to make sure that these assistant payments get to the people who actually need them.

    All it could take is a forged death certificate for scammers to start trying to collect money from FEMA. And with states reporting deaths in different ways, this could lead to a lot of confusion. The other aspect this scam shares with the unemployment scam is that FEMA will be dealing with a record amount of funeral reimbursement requests since the country has never dealt with this many deaths before due to one single disaster.

    If you’ve ever had to suddenly plan for a loved one’s funeral, you’ll know how expensive funerals can be. Thanks to scammers, more people will be out of more money until more safeguards are put in place to prevent such widespread fraud.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: FEMA, , , , ,   

    More cold weather scams to be aware of 

    By Greg Collier

    When we think of natural disasters, we normally think of things like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes. However, the current brutal winter conditions that a large part of the country are currently enduring is also a natural disaster. As such, the current climate crisis is bringing scammers out of the woodwork. We’ve already touched upon how scammers are using the power outages to steal your information or gain access to your home, but other scams are starting to emerge as well.

    In Texas, where residents have been the hardest hit by the cold, FEMA is warning residents about a scam propagating on social media. In this scam, fake social media accounts are posing as FEMA and are listing a phone number for residents to call so they can be provided with a free hotel room. As of the time of this writing, FEMA is not providing any hotel room assistance, however, they are providing other emergency services to the Lone Star State. FEMA hasn’t stated what the purpose of this scam is, but one could assume it’s designed to steal your identity, money, or both.

    While Texas is feeling the brunt of the current weather situation, other states are dealing with the record-breaking weather as well. States in The Great Plains and Midwest are also dealing with rolling blackouts, just not on the level of Texas. Like any other natural disaster, this has the potential for some retailers and lodgings to start price gouging. Most states have laws preventing vendors from excessively raising their prices during a time of crisis. If you encounter price gouging, it’s recommended that you document the incident and report it to the state’s Attorney General office. Price gouging can also happen where an emergency has not been declared, so be on the lookout for that if you’re leaving your current state for a neighboring state that may not be going through the same crisis.

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