What It’s Worth

What It’s Worth

Avoid Scams After a Natural Disaster

Author: Hannah Luera
Published Date: 9/12/2017

During and after events like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, many folks are looking for ways to help those in need – whether that be through monetary donations, in-kind donations, or volunteerism. Unfortunately, many criminals see disasters like this as an opportunity to prey on victims and those who want to help victims. Whether you’ve been personally affected by Hurricane Harvey or Irma, or simply want to donate to an organization that will help those affected, please read below for tips on how to avoid scam artists.

Deciphering Between Contractors and Con Artists

One of the most common scams after a disaster involves people who want to help you restore your property, including cleanup teams, roofers, and builders. Keep the following tips in mind when hiring a contractor to do work on your home.

  • Don't rush into doing business with a contractor. You should get written estimates for any repairs from more than one company, which is always best practice.
  • Be especially wary of individuals who go door-to-door soliciting business. Anyone that provides you with a very low estimate or tries to pressure you into using their services with "limited time offers" are likely trying to scam you.
  • Do not sign any contract that requires you to pay a large deposit up front, especially if it is requested in cash. Scam contractors will often times leave after receiving a large deposit and not complete work on your property. 
  • Look for local professionals who have a known reputation in your area. Search online for the company's website and reviews, or ask neighbors, friends, or coworkers for references. Disputing any errors in workmanship or tracking down someone who isn't local will likely be more difficult.
  • Remember to remove any personal, financial, or medical information from your home before allowing anyone to do work on your property. This will help prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.

What to Check Before You Write a Check

After natural disasters, there are a multitude of charities who solicit donations from those who want to lend a helping hand. Although many of these organizations are legitimate, it is always best to research before you donate. Here are a few steps to take to make sure your money is going to victims and not scammers.

  • Give to charities with which you are already familiar.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email asking you to click on a link to make a donation, immediately delete the email.
  • Avoid donating to anyone who is going door-to-door.
  • Do not give bank account information to someone who calls on the phone asking for a donation.
  • Avoid donating in cash. It is best to use a credit card for donations so that that you can dispute any unauthorized charges if needed. And, if possible, get a receipt for your donation.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to verify a charity. Do not feel pressured to give to an organization before verifying that it is legitimate. 

Many organizations are doing outstanding work during this time of recovery in Texas. Please keep in mind the tips mentioned above so that you can donate wisely. For more helpful information on how to protect yourself from fraud, visit PlainsCapital’s Fraud Resource Center.

Tags: Commercial Banking