Disaster Fraud: What You Need to Know

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – In the wake of Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires burning across thousands of acres in the Southeast, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs wants to warn you about disaster scams.

Julian Harris, the Communications Director for Consumer Affairs, said the most prevalent scams they see are imposter scams.

“You want to make sure whoever you’re talking to about the disaster is who they say they are,” she said. People will pretend to work for a government agency, like FEMA, or a charity like the Red Cross. If you encounter someone coming on your property making these claims, be sure to ask for their identification, and get a good look at it. Also, call the organization to double-check the person actually works there. Never give anyone personal information like social security numbers or dates of birth.

If you need work done on your house or property, consumer affairs says to make sure your contractor is properly licensed and has insurance. A red flag is when someone asks you to pay in full, up front. Get a couple different bids to make sure you get the fairest price.

With so much loss, you might want to make a donation.

“When people know that an area is hit hard by something, they will try to prey on people’s good will and make fake charities and try to steal money that way as well,” Harris said. Charities should be registered with the Secretary of State’s Office.

If you’re confused about the search process, or have a questions, consumer affairs is happy to help. Their staffed, toll-free number is 1-800-922-1594.


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