Hurricane Irma Scam: How It Works
Every time there is a major calamity happening in the world, such as Hurricane Irma, there are criminals out there who bank on the emotional decisions of those who want to help. The latest disaster hit Florida, 6.3 million people being ordered to evacuate in the last few days. Florida's Governor, Rick Scott, has declared a state of emergency.
Watch the scary video below to see how Irma still destroys Florida's cities:
Requests for bogus charity donations are so common nowadays that they could happen anywhere. Following the Hurricane Irma disaster fake Red Cross accounts and campaigns started to pop up on websites like Facebook, Twitter, or GoFundMe.
As many people have their hearts and wallets open for the Irma victims, several fell themselves already to the cause. Criminals are setting up fake donations pages which collect victims' money along with their personal information.
The safest place to donate towards the victims of Hurricane Irma is through the Red Cross' official website. You can visit the American Red Cross page and donate HERE. You can also follow the Twitter account of the American Red Cross HERE.
On September 8, hundreds of thousands of Floridians had evacuated their houses, making it the largest evacuation is the state's history. The number of deaths in all areas affected (USA, Bahamas, Cuba, Antilles, Turks and Caicos) is 55, 12 of which in Florida. The damages are estimated at $30 billion.
A second variation of the fraud comes as the Home Renovations Scam, many property owners affected by Irma falling victims for bogus repairs and neverending projects.
Hurricane Irma Relief: How To Avoid Donation Scams
If you have a good heart and like to help those in need, you need to research these organizations first. Charities that are legitimate have to be registered and have an online presence; if they are small and don't have a website, always ask for identification and their registration number.
If you donate cash, you have the right to know exactly where your money it is going. It's better to give not to those individuals with a collecting box but online, going directly to the charity.
To make sure your donation reaches those who need it most after Hurricane Irma, follow these tips from the Better Business Bureau:
100% Claims. Be wary of claims that say 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Charities always have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
Verify Online Requests. Be cautious when giving online. Especially in response to unsolicited emails, text messages, or social media posts. If you want to give to a charity, go directly to their website.
On Ground Presence. Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to provide assistance quickly.
Ask For Experts. Rely on expert opinion when giving to a charity. Go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relieve organizations to make sure they meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
Priorities First. Beware of requests for gifts of clothing, food or other supplies. Drives for food and clothing, while well intentioned, may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly.
Third Party Collectors. Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider avoiding the middleman.
Hurricane Irma Relief: How To Avoid The Home Improvement Scam
When it comes to home renovations proposals, consider the following tips:
Ask For License. Verify a contractor has a license with local and state licensing boards. Ensure the contractor is licensed for the job. Check to see if a company is properly licensed and if there are any consumer complaints filed against a licensed contractor at MyFloridaLicense.com, the Department of Professional Business Regulation site.
Unsolicited Offers. Refuse any unsolicited offers or contractors claiming they can repair your home at a discount, using leftover supplies from another job.
Get Multiple Estimates. Request at least three written, itemized estimates or bids on repairs.
Evaluate Damage. Get your insurance company to evaluate damage before arranging repairs to ensure that the work will be covered under your policy.
Throw in a social media question. Research the company and its reputation; ask for references on social media.
Verify Insurance. Check for proof of insurance. Even more, verify with the insurer that their policy is current.
Refuse Upfront Payment. Do not pay the full amount of a repair up front. Also, hesitate before providing large deposits.
Bonding Agency Proof. Check to see if the contractor is bonded. Here as well verify with the bonding agency.
Check the Fine Print. Proceed to read the entire contract, including the fine print, before signing. Ensure it includes the required buyer's right to cancel language. Look into cancellation rights and penalties for canceling.
Check Complaints. Contact the Florida Attorney General's Office at 1 (866) 9NO-SCAM. You can see if there are complaints against the company or contractor you're dealing with.
Be Satified Before Payment. Do not sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until you are satisfied with the work performed.
Pay Attention To Lien. Homeowners may unknowingly have liens placed against their properties by suppliers or subcontractors who have not been paid by the contractor. If the contractor doesn't pay them, the liens will remain on the title. Ask for releases of any liens that could be placed on the property from all subcontractors prior to making final payments.
Hurricane Irma Relief Scam: How To Report
Make your family and friends aware of this scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission.
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