Until recently I had never heard of the term “derecho,” which is the name for a straight-line wind storm that accompanies severe thunderstorms with winds at a level that rivals hurricanes and tornadoes. Derechos often bring heavy rains and flooding as well. A derecho hit parts of Iowa earlier this month causing extensive damage. Now the Iowa Attorney General is warning people about “storm chasers” which is the name for scammers posing as contractors who come to the damaged homes of victims of the storms soliciting clean up and repair work. Unfortunately, many of these storm chasers either fail to do any work for the money they collect from their victims or provide shoddy work.
Natural disasters bring out the best in people who want to donate to charities to help the victims. Unfortunately natural disasters such as the Iowa derecho also bring out the worst in scammers who are quick to take advantage of the generosity of people by contacting them posing as charities, but instead of collecting funds to help the victims of the storms, these scam artists steal the money for themselves under false pretenses. Charities are not subject to the federal Do Not Call List so even if you are enrolled in the Do Not Call List, legitimate charities are able to contact you. The problem is that whenever you are contacted on the phone, you can never be sure as to who is really calling you so you may be contacted either by a phony charity or a scammer posing as a legitimate charity. Similarly, when you are solicited for a charitable contribution by email or text message you cannot be sure as to whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not.
Other natural disaster related scams that will occur involve identity thieves posing as Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) employees and insurance company representatives in order to take personal information from storm victims to turn them into victims of identity theft.
Good advice to anyone following a natural disaster is to refrain from hiring any contractors, particularly those who contact you personally at your home, by phone or over the Internet,unless you have verified that they are properly licensed, insured and that there are not numerous complaints against them. This information can generally be obtained online from your state’s licensing board. Also check their references and do a search engine search in which you type in their name and the word “scam” and see what comes up.
As for charitable solicitations that you may receive either on the phone or online, never provide credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called or in response to an email or text message. Before you give to any charity, you may wish to check out the charity with http://www.charitynavigator.org where you can learn whether or not the charity itself is a scam. You can also see how much of the money that the charity collects actually goes toward its charitable purposes and how much it uses for fund raising and administrative costs.
Never give out personal information to anyone unless you have confirmed that they are legitimate. Federal and state agencies will not ask for fees in order to be eligible for assistance and neither will insurance companies. Also beware of people who pass themselves off as insurance adjusters promising to get you more money. Insurance adjusters are licensed in each state and you should check out any person claiming to be an adjuster before hiring them. Make sure they are who they say they are and that there are not numerous complaints against them. Never give personal information to anyone passing themselves off as a FEMA or other emergency aid agency employee regardless of how good their identification card looks. ID cards can be forged. Rather, call FEMA or any other agency that they purport to represent and confirm whether or not they are legitimate. The same goes for a representative of your insurance company. Call your insurance company to confirm the identity of the person purporting to represent the insurance company.
For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.” Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.
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