Throughout the years that I have written Scamicide there have been a number of natural disasters including the Japanese Tsunami and Hurricane Sandy. Recently there have been horribly destructive forest fires through much of the Western United States claiming the homes of many unfortunate residents. These are terrible events that harm many people, but they bring out the best in our fellow citizens as so many of us respond to these disasters by donating to charities to help the victims. Unfortunately, scammers are right there to take advantage of these generous impulses by setting up phony charities. In addition, other scammers will take these events as an opportunity to scam the people who have already been victimized by these natural disasters by posing as government aid workers or insurance adjusters with the promise of help when all they really are doing is stealing personal information to use to make the people already victims of natural disasters victims of identity theft.
Before you ever give money to a charity, make sure that it is a legitimate charity. Often phony charities will have names that are deceptively similar to real charities. Go to the website http://www.charitynavigator.org where you can check and see not only if a particular charity is legitimate, but also how much of your contribution actually goes to helping the victims and how much goes toward the charity’s fund raising, salaries and administrative expense. There are some “legitimate” charities that spend inordinate amounts of the money they collect on lining their own pockets.
As for anyone asking you for personal information representing themselves as employees of FEMA, state emergency management agencies, insurance companies or insurance adjusters, you can never be sure that the person with whom you are meeting is actually legitimate. Often the scammers will have counterfeit credentials. Never give personal information to anyone until you have independently confirmed that they are legitimate by contacting the company or agency they purport to represent directly to make sure that you are not giving information to a scam artist.