Posted: 9/21/2017

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In the wake of recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma, scammers are doing their best to con consumers out of money. Consumers have reported a variety of scams, including fake flood insurance calls, hurricane cleanup schemes, and donation scams. BCA is warning consumers to be on guard for scams and what to do if you encounter a similar scheme.

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In the wake of recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma, scammers are doing their best to con consumers out of money. Consumers have reported a variety of scams, including fake flood insurance calls, hurricane cleanup schemes, and donation scams. BCA is warning consumers to be on guard for scams and what to do if you encounter a similar scheme.

Flood Insurance Calls

Consumers are receiving robocalls claiming their flood insurance premiums have lapsed and in order to be covered for damages caused by recent hurricanes, they have to make an immediate payment. This is a scam to get money.

If you receive calls like this, hang up and contact your insurance agent or insurance company. They will assist you if you need to make a payment or if other information is needed. You should also report the scam to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Fraud Hotline toll-free at 1-866-720-5721.

Disaster Cleanup Schemes

Natural and man-made disasters often leave debris and call for cleanup efforts. Unfortunately, con artists disguised as contractors, or even unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors, prey on those affected by the disaster. They promise to do the cleanup work and make repairs for an up-front fee. After they receive the money, they disappear. Some may even return and do work that proves to be shoddy, incomplete, or doesn’t meet insurance standards.

Always check out the person or business offering to do work for you. Write down the person’s name, and their vehicle information, just in case you need to report them to the authorities. Make sure they are licensed and bonded to do the work. Check their references and obtain a written estimate and contract before making any payment. Avoid paying by cash. Instead, pay with a credit card or check for added protection. If you are not satisfied with the work or if they fail to provide the services, you can file a dispute or cancel the payment. If you agree to the contractor’s services and change your mind, you have three days to cancel the contract. Report unlicensed contractors and file a complaint if you have problems with the service.

Donation Scams

When disasters hit, many are devastated by the damages. Lives are lost as well as property and businesses. Sometimes basic necessities are hard to find. You may want to help those in need by making a donation, but be careful you are not donating to a scam. It is unfortunate that some exploit the generosity of others and come up with plots to defraud the kindhearted. Giving wisely can help you avoid giving to a scam.

If you are asked to give to a charity or cause, do your homework. Consider only donating to charities and organizations you trust, that have a proven track record for assisting with disaster relief. Double check that the solicitor is actually with the organization or cause they claim to be affiliated with. You can do so by contacting the charity or organization yourself and asking questions. Check to see if the fundraiser or charity has to be registered in your state. Be cautious about messages posted on social media asking for donations or GoFundMe accounts which may be fake. You can obtain more information about giving by contacting some of the following organizations:

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About Business Consumer Alliance

Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.

Tags: disaster, scams, non profit, donations

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The Consumer Ally program is free for consumers to join. At BCA, we feel it's very important to educate the public on trends like scams, new laws and providing helpful tips to empower the public in making wise purchasing decisions. This program is an elite community of consumers who share our vision for a safe marketplace. We can't be everywhere at once so we depend on feedback from the public to help our efforts.

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