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  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 5, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , natural disasters, ,   

    State warns of storm scams 

    By Greg Collier

    Recently, the Wichita-area of Kansas experienced severe weather, which resulted in at least one tornado that tore through the town of Andover. The EF-3 tornado was only on the ground for 21 minutes, more than 1,000 buildings were destroyed in the 13 miles the tornado traveled. As with any natural disaster, scammers will start popping out of the woodwork looking to take advantage of storm victims. In an attempt to get ahead of the scammers, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office issued a warning to residents of the Sunflower State.

    Even though the warnings issued are relevant to Kansas residents right now, every state has its fair share of natural disasters. Whether it’s flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or what have you, scammers will descend on that area like a plague. So what’s pertinent to Kansas today could be pertinent to your area tomorrow.

    The most common scam after disasters like this are from shady contractors. These phony contractors travel from storm to storm, looking for victims. They’ll claim to be licensed, but they may not be licensed in your state. You should only deal with contractors that are licensed in your state. Another good way to avoid this scam is to get estimates from a few contractors. Also, you should never pay in advance as that could be an indication of a scam.

    Another disaster-related scam is when scammers offer to assist you in qualifying for FEMA relief assistance. FEMA does not charge any kind of application fee. So if someone claiming to be from FEMA asks you for money, they’re more than likely a fraud.

    This can go for scammers posing as your insurance company as well. 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.

    For those of you living outside of disaster areas, you still have to be wary of scams as well. While you may have a charitable streak, be careful of donating to any random charity claiming to be for disaster relief. Real charities will never ask you to donate through gift cards, money orders, or wire transfers. Scammers will also try to pressure you into making a donation as quickly as possible.

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

    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 9:00 am on December 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , natural disasters, ,   

    How to donate safely to tornado victims 

    How to donate safely to tornado victims

    By Greg Collier

    We’re sure you’ve heard the news that over the weekend, at least 50 tornadoes touched down in eight states in the South and the Midwest. The state of Kentucky was said to have received the brunt of the storms and the most damage. While we have to yet see any reports of it yet, it’s almost guaranteed that charity scams will follow in the wake of the tornadoes’ devastation. Scammers have long used tragedies, both natural and man made, to try and take money that could be better used providing relief to the victims.

    The State of Kentucky is trying to get ahead of these scams by letting donators know that the state has set up an official relief fund website where anyone can donate money to assist the victims in Kentucky. Fundraising platform GoFundMe has also set up a portal to help guide contributors to legitimate fundraising channels to help the victims in not only Kentucky, but the other state’s as well. And you can always donate money or blood to the Red Cross.

    People looking to donate to a relief fund should be wary of phone or email solicitors that come from generic sounding entities like ‘Disaster Relief Fund’. If a charity appears to be trying to pressure you into making a donation either over the phone or online, there’s a good chance that they’re scammers.

    If you’d prefer not to donate to any of the charities listed above, you can always check the legitimacy of a charity by going to websites like Charity Navigator and Give.org that can let you know which charities are legitimate and which ones aren’t. You can also check with the IRS to see if a charity is registered with them, which goes a long way in showing the charity’s legitimacy.

    The following video is from the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado disaster, but the tips remain just as relevant.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Gulf Coast, hurricane, hurricane ida, natural disasters, ,   

    Price gouging, a concern in wake of hurricane 

    By Greg Collier

    With Hurricane Ida touching down in Louisiana, states of emergency have been declared in several Gulf Coast states. Typically, when a state of emergency is declared, laws go into effect that are designed to prevent price gouging. This is when vendors overcharge for products or services in order to maximize profit during a crisis. Historically, you might have seen gas stations and motels charging outlandish prices leading up to or in the wake of a hurricane. Some hardware and grocery stores have also been offenders of this practice in the past.

    Thanks to consumer protection laws in most storm-prone states, price gouging isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be. That’s not to say it still doesn’t happen. For example, if you were to travel to a state that’s not in a state of emergency to ride out the storm, you might encounter price gouging in the safe location. That’s also not to say that some vendors in the emergency areas won’t defy state law and try to gouge customers anyway.

    If you do happen to encounter price gouging, be sure to document it as well as you can. You can then report it to either the local police or the state’s Attorney General’s office. Some states even have price gouging hotlines that you can call if you’ve been victimized by a vendor. A quick web search should show you where price gouging can be reported in your area.

    We hope everyone who is living in the affected storm areas stays safe.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , earthquake, haiti, natural disasters,   

    Warning issued over disaster relief scams 

    Warning issued over disaster relief scams

    By Greg Collier

    If you’ve been following the news recently, you might have heard about the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The earthquake left close to 2,000 victims dead, with thousands more displaced. And this was after the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Grace. You might be moved to make a charitable donation to help the disaster relief, but as usual, scammers are looking to take advantage of the plight of the Haitians for their own personal gain. So, you can’t just donate to any charity that comes along claiming to help the Haiti disaster.

    The Florida Attorney General’s office has issued a warning about charity scams related to the earthquake. While the scams haven’t appeared yet, the Florida Attorney General expects them to descend on Florida due to their large Haitian population. However, it will probably also start spreading outside of the Sunshine State.

    You should avoid donating to any charity that has a vague name like ‘Disaster Relief Fund’. Charities that solicit you out of the blue by using robocalls or mass emails could be suspect as well.

    If you want to make a meaningful donation, there are ways to check to make sure the charity you’re donating to is legitimate. For example, there are websites like Charity Navigator and Give.org that can let you which charities are for real and which ones aren’t. You can also check to see if a charity is registered with the IRS.

    As with most scams, if you’re contacted out of the blue, do not give any personal or financial information to whoever is contacting you. Also, be careful of any crowdfunding campaign that is being run by anonymous or unknown individuals.

    The people of Haiti deserve our help, and your contribution shouldn’t go into the pockets of a scammer.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , hurricanes, natural disasters, ,   

    How hurricane season scams could affect you 

    How hurricane season scams could affect you

    By Greg Collier

    With the hurricane season just underway, there are expected to be up to 20 named storms in the Atlantic this year. While not all of the named storms will make landfall, there is still potential for storm related damage to affect those in hurricane-prone areas. If the devastation from the storms aren’t bad enough, damaging storms can also bring all sorts of scammers out of the woodwork. Some of these scams can affect you even if you don’t live in the storm-ravaged area.

    If you do live in the storm area, you have to be aware of scam contractors. These are scammers claiming to be contractors who offer help to repair your home. According to the Better Business Bureau, these phony contractors travel from storm to storm, looking for victims. They’ll claim to be licensed, but they may not be licensed in your state. You should only deal with contractors that are licensed in your state. Another good way to avoid this scam is to get estimates from a few contractors. Also, you should never pay in advance as that could be an indication of a scam.

    Another act of fraud that almost inevitably happens with natural disasters is price gouging. This is when businesses will start charging outrageous prices for items or services that are in demand during a crisis. One of the biggest areas of price gouging comes from hotels when people are trying to find emergency lodging. Not only could this price gouging happen in your area, but it could also happen in areas not affected by the storm as shady proprietors could be expecting an influx of people escaping the storm.

    There are also charity scams to look out for. After every major storm, scammers will start posing as charities looking to pressure you into making a donation to them. These phony charities will often have generic sounding names like ‘Storm Relief Fund’ for example. If you want to financially help those affected by the storm it’s always a safe bet to donate to the Red Cross. You can also check the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org to see if the charity you want to donate to is legitimate or not.

    Even if you don’t live in a hurricane-prone area, the area you live in probably has its own share of natural disasters. Whether it’s blizzards, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, or what have you, these scams will move into your area if a natural disaster occurs.

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

    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 8:00 am on September 17, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , natural disasters,   

    Scams are their own form of disaster 

    Scams are their own form of disaster

    Along with the ‘usual’ chaos of 2020, the country is now finding itself in a midst of natural disasters. Between the fires in the West and the hurricanes in the South, the country could be potentially be facing more humanitarian crises than we already are. Of course, wherever there’s a crisis, scammers are sure to follow and today’s disasters are no exception.

    The most common scam that turns up after a natural disaster is the cleanup or repairs at a discounted price. 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. In the case of scammers, they will just take your money upfront and do very little work if they do any at all.

    Another disaster-related scam is when scammers offer to assist you in qualifying for FEMA relief assistance. FEMA does not charge any kind of application fee. So if someone claiming to be from FEMA asks you for money, they’re more than likely a fraud.

    This can go for scammers posing as your insurance company as well. 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.

    For those of you living outside of disaster areas, you still have to be wary of scams as well. While you may have a charitable streak, be careful of donating to any random charity claiming to be for disaster relief. Real charities will never ask you to donate through gift cards, money orders, or wire transfers. Scammers will also try to pressure you into making a donation as quickly as possible.

     
  • Geebo 10:07 am on November 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Camp Fire, , natural disasters, , ,   

    Excerpts of Facebook documents released and a scam warning for the victims of the Camp Fire 

    Excerpts of Facebook documents released and a scam warning for the victims of the Camp Fire

    The Wall Street Journal has obtained some excerpts of the internal Facebook documents seized by British Parliament. According to the WSJ, by way of The Verge, Facebook once considered selling user data to third parties. You know, instead of giving it away like they unintentionally do with all these data breaches. Emails show that there was chatter among Facebook employees about selling user data for a premium price after Facebook’s lackluster IPO failed to garner the company the assets they were hoping for. The question is how high up did this discussion go? We should no more once the complete documents are published.

    However, the main topic of today’s blog post is the devastating Camp Fire that has caused so much destruction and devastation in California. As we’ve mentioned before when discussing natural disasters, while events like these can bring out the best in humanity by those volunteering to help the victims of the fire it also brings out the worst in humanity when scammers and con artists descend on the area looking to take advantage of the victims. Local news media in Sacramento is reporting that housing scams are proliferating through the area targeting the victims of the fire.

    The scam itself is nothing new. The scammer will post a phony ad for a rental property on craigslist or Zillow at a too good to be true price. The scammer will come up with some excuse as to why they can’t show the property and will request that you wire them a deposit. Unfortunately, the scammers are normally from overseas so prosecuting them after the fact is almost impossible as is the recovery of any money sent to the scammer. As the article from Sacramento points out, always use a check or credit card to pay for any deposits as these transactions are easier to recover if you’ve been scammed. Please don’t let your anxiety over finding shelter cloud your judgment. Always do the research before giving anyone any money for rent or deposits.

     
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