Disasters such as hurricanes are tragic events, they cause major damage and ruin the lives of thousands of people. Yet there are fraudsters whom are willing to take advantage of the terrible situation. Disaster relief scams really started to show their ugly head after the tragic events of Katrina. Many people were duped out of their generous donations by phony charities, and there were also thousands of cases of identity fraud, with regards to filing relief claims, leaving many victims without the help they so desperately needed.
Disaster Relief Scams
There are two major forms of disaster relief scams, there are those that target the good, generous people who just want to help. And then there are the ones that target the victims themselves, arguably the more despicable of the two.
After each disaster, understandably there are large amounts of people who just want to help, and for most of them donating money is the easiest option. This means that there are huge sums of money available for any scammer who can make an official looking website with provocative headings such as “Helping Harvey” or “Relief for Puerto Rico”. Often people are so eager to give, they don’t fully vet the site they are donating to and that’s how scammers get away with stealing thousands of dollars.
On the other side of the coin, there are the scammers who target the victims. These are people who may have lost their homes, or family members and they desperately need help. This help comes in the form of relief efforts such as first responders, but also relief funds which are set up to help victims rebuild and try to return to a semi-normal life. To access these relief funds, victims need to apply to various agencies. But if someone else has enough information on you then they could apply in your name. This means that a fraudster can steal the money that is rightfully yours and then when you do apply you will told that your money has already been collected by a family member or friend, leaving you empty handed.
How To Stop Them
It is a lot easier to be vigilant and take precautions, then to get your money back after it has been stolen. If you can donate to the victims, then of course you should, but take the extra time and vet every charity you are considering. There are alliances and organisations whose sole purpose is to find legitimate charities which are doing good work in these areas. So, you don’t need to call up every individual charity if you don’t want to, but that’s not a bad idea. Just make sure that you can find some background information on the charity which validates them.
If you are a victim of a natural disaster, then it is important that you contact the organisation running the relief fund for your area. Try to do it as fast as possible even if you are handling the damage fine, it’s good to get into the system early before scammers try their luck with your identity. Also, beware of any robo-calls or other telemarketers asking for personal information, often scammers will pretend to be part of a relief organisation and then use the information you provided to scam the actual organisations.
Following this advice should allow you to help in these tragic times and make a difference with your donations. If you are a victim of the disaster then being fast with your application will mean that you are helped effectively and won’t have to worry about losing out on any help promised to you.