How to recognize a disaster scam

FTC disaster recovery scams

Graphic courtesy FTC

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)– The United States has seen many natural disasters in 2021, from flooding to hurricanes to wildfires, and scammers are ready to prey on victims and generous people looking to help.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers about schemes that target people who are recovering from a natural disaster. Here are some ways to help you avoid common post-disaster scams.

  • Be skeptical of anyone promising immediate clean-up and debris removal. Some may quote outrageous prices, demand payment up-front, or lack the skills needed.
  • Check them out. Before you pay, ask for IDs, licenses, and proof of insurance. Don’t believe any promises that aren’t in writing. Check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if they can shed any light on the practitioner’s reputation You can check a Massachusetts business license through the Division of Occupational Licensure.
  • Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency, or in cash. And never make the final payment until the work is done and you’re satisfied.
  • Guard your personal information. Only scammers will say they’re a government official and then demand money or your credit card, bank account, or Social Security number.
  • Know that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, that’s probably a scam.
  • Be wise to rental listing scams. Steer clear of people who tell you to wire money or ask for security deposits or rent before you’ve met or signed a lease.
  • Spot disaster-related charity scams. Scammers will often try to make a quick profit from the misfortune of others. Check out the FTC’s advice on donating wisely and avoiding charity scams.

Suspect a scam? Report it to the FTC at Get information on the latest frauds and scams at the FTC’s consumer alert page on their website.

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