The FBI Columbia field office issued a warning this week for the public to be cautious of charity and disaster fraudsters following Hurricane Ian’s impact last week.
The storm caused significant damage in South Carolina, especially along the state’s coastal region. Following natural disasters, the FBI typically receives complaints of charity and disaster schemes.
Whether you are directly impacted or want to help, scammers will take advantage of a natural disaster, like Hurricane Ian, to steal your money, your personal information, or both. That is why the FBI is reminding the public to be vigilant when looking to donate to hurricane relief causes and when searching for contractors to repair damages.
The following are some reminders and tips on how to avoid falling victim to charity and disaster fraud:
- Scammers may go door to door to target residents in areas affected by hurricanes. They may also call, text, or email with promises to quickly provide aid. Do not give out personal information without confirming the legitimacy of the person contacting you.
- Government workers are required to carry official identification and show it if requested. Closely scrutinize any ID you see and call the agency directly to confirm a worker’s identity if you are unsure.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal government disaster assistance agencies do not ask for financial information, and there is no fee required to apply for assistance.
- Do your research when it comes to donations. Look at charity reviews online, state regulators of charities, and charity reports and ratings by the Better Business Bureau.
- Give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust.
- Never make charitable donations by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards are safer.
- After donating, be sure to review your financial accounts to ensure additional funds are not deducted or charged.
- Don’t always trust your caller ID. Scammers often spoof agency phone numbers. It is always best to research the organization’s telephone number and call directly to verify. Do not be pressured or rushed to donate because it may be a scam.
- Do not click on links from sources you don’t know. Unknown links could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone. Manually type out links instead of clicking on them.
- Be wary of charity names which sound very similar to well-known charities, as well as email addresses that are not consistent with the charity soliciting donations.
- Verify the charity’s website URL as most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com.
If you believe you are a victim of disaster or charity fraud, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or online at justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm