Keep These Fraud Tips in Your Hurricane Survival Kit 

Hurricane season has arrived, which means it is time you know what to look for and how to stay away from some of the most common scams and frauds that occur after a natural disaster. As you begin preparing your hurricane survival kit, Sheriff Carmine Marceno encourages you to include these “post-hurricane” safety tips to avoid being taken advantage of by con-artists looking to prey on disaster victims.  

Identity Thieves – Inclement weather may force you to abandon your home due to flooding and wind.  Now is the time to shred sensitive information and place items such as your social security card, birth certificate and passport in a secured, water-proof container.  If your home will be vacant for a period of time, contact the post office as soon as possible to either forward your mail or place it on hold. Identity thieves have been known to collect information from abandoned houses. 

Dishonest contractors – If you have property damage you will most likely want to have it repaired as quickly as possible so you can regain a sense of normalcy. This mindset can leave you vulnerable to fly-by-night contractors looking to make a quick buck.  Beware of high price temporary repairs, a request for a large cash deposit, or pushy salesmen.  If at all possible it is always best to get at least three written estimates by contractors who have roots in   the local community. 

Fraudulent representation of FEMA – After a disaster, you may encounter someone who claims to be a FEMA representative.  Beware of phone calls and individuals who go door-to-door asking for your social security and/or bank account numbers, FEMA registration number or other sensitive material.  FEMA reps typically will not take an active role in seeking out individuals, but will make themselves accessible to victims by travelling through damaged areas. If in doubt, contact the Sheriff’s Office.

 Charitable phishing or spoofing alerts – Beware of websites and e-mails soliciting donations for disaster victims. To ensure contributions to non-profit organizations are received and used for intended purposes, go directly to the website of the charity as opposed to following links provided in e-mails. Check out reviews and legitimacy of your chosen charity at www.charitynavigator.org. Internet scam complaints can be forwarded to www.ic3.gov.

 To report a fraud or scam, please contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 239-258-3292. If you would like one of our highly trained Crime Prevention Specialists to speak at your business event or community meeting, please call the Community Response Unit at 239-477-1CRU.