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How to avoid post-disaster scams

From the relentless series of powerful storms that have battered California to the dozens of tornadoes that swept across six states, including Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky, 2023 is off to a devastating start.

Whether you’re getting back on your feet or looking for ways to help people in hard-hit areas, learn how scammers operate — and how to avoid them.

Here are a few ways to spot the scammers who might try to take your money or personal information after a weather emergency:

  • Spot imposter scams. Scammers might pretend to be safety inspectors, government officials trying to help you, or utility workers who say immediate work is required. Don’t give them money, and ask for identification to verify who you are dealing with — before sharing personal information like your Social Security or account numbers.

  • Spot FEMA impersonators charging application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, it’s a scam. Download the FEMA Mobile App to get alerts and information. Visit FEMA.gov for more information.

  • Spot home improvement and debris removal scamsUnlicensed contractors and scammers may appear in recovery zones with promises of quick repairs or clean-up services. Walk away if they demand cash payments up front, or refuse to give you copies of their license, insurance, and a contract in writing.

  • Spot rental listing scams. Scammers know people need a place to live while they rebuild. They’ll advertise rentals that don’t exist to get your money and run. The scammers are the ones who tell you to wire money, or who ask for security deposits or rent before you’ve met or signed a lease.

  • Spot charity scams. Scammers will often try to profit from the misfortune of others, sometimes using familiar-sounding names or logos. Check Donating Wisely and Avoiding Charity Scams before opening up your wallet.

Learn more at ftc.gov/WeatherEmergencies and report weather-related scams to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.