Every time there’s a natural disaster — like the tornado that tore through Mississippi and neighboring states — scammers are quick to follow. How do they exploit tragedy to steal from people who have lost everything? Read on to learn how to avoid these scams.
If you’re in a disaster relief area designated by FEMA, there’s legitimate help on the way. For example, if you’re in a qualified area, the IRS is extending many of its filing and payment deadlines until July 31, 2023. To see if your area qualifies, visit the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.
Disaster recovery scams come in many forms, but mostly these scammers pretend to offer legitimate help. Here are some ways to spot and avoid these scams:
- Ask for official identification. 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 always ask for identification to verify who you’re dealing with — before sharing personal information like your Social Security or account numbers.
- Don’t pay to apply for FEMA assistance. If they say you need to pay to qualify for FEMA funds, it’s a scam. The best place to get information from FEMA is from FEMA.gov or by downloading the FEMA Mobile App to get alerts and information.
- Look out for clean-up and repair scams. Unlicensed 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.
- Steer clear of 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. Never wire or give money for a deposit or rent before you’ve met or signed a lease.
- Share resources from Dealing with Weather Emergencies with those in your community. You’ll find advice and infographics to help you get the word out about disaster scams.
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.
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You always got to be careful about these scammers because they are no telling what they will do and what they are capable of doing anything to anyone. They dont care who they hurt or what they do to other people's lives and they are bad people.
I got a text mssg from someone wanting donations for feeding people in area of the tornado. Deleted it.
I received a message on my phone about giving a $35.00 donation. I blocked the number
Thank you for helping us and the public avoid the many scams we could be taken in by. Your education and support is invaluable!