(CNN)It’s a sad reality: After natural disasters, there will always be those who want to prey on the displaced, the down-and-out and the desperate.
State and federal officials are warning Hurricane Florence survivors, and those who want to help them, about scams. Here’s their advice.
Be wary of cold calls and unsolicited messages
“We know from experience that financial predators often take advantage of disasters to peddle their schemes and profit from the misfortune of others,” Ronald W. Thomas, the director of the Virginia State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising said in an SCC release.
“Red flags of hurricane-related scams include unsolicited email, social media messages, crowdfunding pitches or telephone calls promoting investment pools or bonds to help storm victims, water-removal or purification technologies, electricity-generating devices and distressed real estate remediation programs,” the release reads.
The SCC also recommends that people:
Delete unsolicited emails or messages
Watch out for calls or solicitations that promise quick payouts or results
“Don’t be tempted to conspire in a fraudulent insurance claim,” Causey said in a release. “A fraudulent claim could result in your claim not getting paid. And since insurance fraud is a crime, you could end up with serious legal problems.”
Causey also provided the following tips:
Run all contracts and repairs by your insurance company first
Demand references, identification and licenses from any contractors
Most importantly, “get everything in writing.”
Watch where and how you donate
Even if you’re hundreds of miles from where Florence hit, your desire to help could land you in the center of a scam. The Federal Trade Commission has advice on how to avoid sinking your money into illegitimate crowdfunding or charity schemes. Here are some of them:
Get detailed information about a charity before donating
Watch out for organizations that aren’t clear about their mission or where the money is going
Avoid cash donations if possible
Be wary of “pop-up” charity websites or organizations that seem to appear out of nowhere directly after a disaster.