The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning victims of Hurricane Ike and Gustav, and donors to the recovery, to beware of identity theft scams.
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices, and to educate consumers about these practices. One such warning involves being extra cautious in the wake of current events, particularly those that pull at your heart strings. Many people will take advantage of natural disasters like Ike and Gustav to create bogus fund-raising operations.
The FTC advises consumers to give to charities that have been around for some time, as they are best prepared to delivery assistance, and to ensure (among other things) that you are donating to the charity you intended to. They recommend a checklist of things to do to prevent becoming a victim of fraud.
In addition to charity fraud, victims of Hurricane Ike and Gustav are cautioned against becoming victims of home repair fraud. They recommend taking the time to check the references of your contractors and to be responsible with your payment process. The FTC reminds consumers not to sign an insurance check over to a contractor.
In order to get relief benefits or replacement documents, victims of the hurricanes will need to share personal information. Be cautious of scams of people claiming to be government officials - check their IDs and know that the government never charges application fees.
Here are some resources from the FTC:
- FTC Charity Checklist – to ensure your donation dollars benefit the people and organizations you want to help
- FTC Hurricane Recovery Resources (Charity Fraud, Home Repair Fraud, Identity Protection)
- Hurricane Recovery Consumer Information – more information about a slew of scams to beware of
Via MarketWatch ; Image: NASA by Jesse Allen