Wind-driven wildfires are causing devastation to the Hawaiian island of Maui. Nobody knows how long it will take to recover from the destruction, but we do know it won’t be long before scammers start trying to cash in. As the smoke begins to clear, here’s some advice to help you spot, avoid, and report disaster-related scams.
- Be skeptical of anyone promising immediate clean-up and repairs. Some may quote outrageous prices, demand payment up front, or lack the skills needed.
- Check contractors out. Before you pay, ask for their IDs, licenses, and proof of insurance. Don’t believe any promises that aren’t in writing.
- Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency, or in cash. Scammers ask for these types of payments because, once they’ve collected the money, it’s almost impossible for you to get it back. And never make the final payment until the work is done and you’re satisfied.
- Know that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, it’s a scam. Download the FEMA Mobile App to get alerts and information. Visit FEMA.gov for more information.
- Spot imposter scams. Scammers might pretend to be safety inspectors, government officials trying to help you, or utility workers who say immediate work is required. Don’t give them money, and ask for identification to verify who you are dealing with — before sharing personal information like your Social Security or account numbers.
- Spot rental listing scams. If anyone asks for a security deposit or rent before you’ve met or signed a lease, steer clear.
- Spread the word. Share the FTC’s Picking Up the Pieces after a Disaster infographic and social media image in your community. And visit Dealing with Weather Emergencies.
If you spot a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
If you’re looking for a way to help those in need, read How to make sure your donations count when weather disasters strike.