By: Joyce Wassell
October is the time we start to look forward to trick-or-treaters, but the real tricksters don’t wait for Halloween. Scam artists work year-round trying to snatch personal information and bilk you out of your hard-earned money. A particularly callused kind of scammer is targeting people at their most vulnerable moment: while trying to recover from a natural disaster.
These days, hurricanes, wildfires, tornados, floods, and even earthquakes seem like a weekly occurrence, completely upending the lives of people living in harm’s way. While there is not very much we can do to defend against mighty Mother Nature, there are key steps we can take to protect ourselves against opportunists who would add insult to our injury.
The Federal Trade Commission has recently outlined several ways to avoid the most common post-disaster scams:
Be wary of anyone promising quick clean-up and debris removal:
Some scammers may quote prices that are too high, require payment before doing the job, or just lack the necessary skills to do the job properly.
Check them out:
Before you hire someone for clean-up, ask for ID, credentials, licenses, and proof of insurance. Get any promises in writing.
Make any payment traceable:
Avoid wire transfers, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or paying in cash. Always wait until the job is done to your satisfaction before making payment.
Safeguard your personal info:
No legitimate agent will claim to be a government official and then demand your credit card, bank account, or social security information. While this all seems to be obvious right now, during times of stress it is very easy to be caught off guard and make a mistake that results in things going from bad to worse.