FBI New Orleans Warns of Fraudsters Who May Capitalize on Natural Disasters
NEW ORLEANS—As citizens impacted by Hurricane Sally begin to assess damage to their homes and/or businesses, the FBI New Orleans Division warns the public about the potential for hurricane-related fraud. Unfortunately, hurricane or natural disaster damage often provides opportunities for criminals to scam storm victims and those who are assisting victims with recovery.
Disasters such as Hurricanes Laura and Sally prompt fraudsters to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization or a good cause. Fraudsters may also attempt to capitalize on the misfortune of victims by advertising false temporary housing ads, in which victims send money to the subject in order to have property keys mailed to them. Victims may also receive information regarding false job opportunities in which victims will receive a fraudulent check they are expected to deposit and then distribute to various accounts. Therefore, before making a donation of any kind or supplying payment for any type of service related to victim relief, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, to include the following:
- Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) emails.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves over email as officials soliciting for donations.
- Do not click on links within an unsolicited email.
- Be cautious of emails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- To ensure contributions are received and used for the intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
- Validate the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization’s website rather than following an alleged link to the site.
- Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which may also assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization.
- Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Be cautious of emails claiming to offer employment for which you did not expressly apply.
- Thoroughly research housing ads prior to sending money to a potential landlord.
Fraudsters may also go door to door to target residents in areas affected by hurricanes. It is important for the public to know that government workers are required to carry official identification and show it if requested. Closely scrutinize any ID you see and call the agency directly to confirm a worker’s identity if you are unsure.
Scammers may also call, text, mail, or email with promises to quickly provide aid. Do not give out personal information without confirming the legitimacy of the person contacting you and the agency. Specifically, contractor fraud scams are prevalent in the aftermath of a natural disaster. If your home or business was damaged, you will need a reputable contractor; remember not everyone who claims to be able to repair your property is legitimate. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says officials with government disaster assistance agencies do not call or text asking for financial information, and there is no fee required to apply for assistance.
If you believe you have been a victim of hurricane-related fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at 1-866-720-5721 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report suspicious email solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
The NCDF was established in 2005 by the Department of Justice in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.