Natural disasters attract scammers and frauds

It’s sad but true: Natural disasters bring about all types of scams, schemes and frauds designed to take advantage of people in need and those wanting to offer help. Whether it’s a high-pressure sales pitch from a fly-by-night contractor or a “charity” asking for a small contribution for relief efforts via a cold call, the types of scams are many and far reaching.

To help you avoid being victimized, here’s a list of common frauds that surface in the midst of a natural disaster:

Flooded cars

Right now in the U.S. there are hundreds of thousands of flood-damaged cars, many of which will wind up for sale on used car lots and elsewhere with no disclosure of their soaking-wet history. Avoid too-good-to-be-true offers and always have any car you’re looking to purchase inspected by a trusted mechanic. If a trusted mechanic is unavailable, hire a professional inspection service.

Related: Prevent fraud when buying a car online

Fly-by-night contractors

These scammers appear in communities right after a disaster occurs with the aim of profiting from the losses of their unsuspecting customers. They often do this by collecting up-front deposits from customers and moving on to the next town before the work is completed or, in some cases, even started.

Related: Beware fly-by-night contractors during natural disasters

Insurance scams

Post-disaster, beware of insurance fraudsters who appear for the sole purpose of exploiting the devastation. Be sure to know the company you’re dealing with and ask for proof of an insurance license. If those first two items check out and you move forward with an insurance claim, fill out all paperwork thoroughly and honestly and be sure to get a hard copy of your policy.

Phony investment opportunities

Scammers often go around after a disaster pitching to know stocks that will greatly benefit from cleanup operations. Avoid this situation by not investing in anything that will supposedly appreciate because of the disaster at hand. Also, delete any e-mails and social media posts that claim to offer investment opportunities.

Phony charities

If you’re prone to give to charities, especially to help the relief efforts of a natural disaster, be sure to only donate to charities that you already trust and know are legitimate. Avoid giving any money to so-called charities asking for donations via cold calls, texts or tweets.

Avoid fraud using PaySAFE

From titled vehicles to construction services, PaySAFE is an ideal way to buy or sell goods and services. As an online closing table, PaySAFE provides buyers and sellers a convenient one-stop location to create, negotiate and close trades with financial protection.

To learn more about PaySAFE, visit our website.

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Photo: Flickr

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