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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Preventing fraud after natural disasters

Oct 04, 2017 01:21PM ● By Guest

By Justin Lavelle

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, two things are certain:

  1. Texans and Floridians will rebuild and repair.
  2. Scammers will be lurking, ready to take advantage of victims, their circumstances and the people lending a hand to help.
Preventing natural disaster relief scams is possible, but it takes informed citizens doing their research.

How victims can avoid fraud

Use trusted, local contractors.

Without a doubt, there will be scammers posing as contractors after a natural disaster. Do research to ensure you aren’t going to be taken advantage of.
  • Don’t hire anyone who rushes or pressures you to sign a repair contract.
  • Don’t pay in cash—a scammer can take the money and never be heard from again.
  • Never hire a contractor on the spot. Read reviews and make sure they do quality work before making any deals.
  • Confirm that the contractor’s business is legal, licensed and registered. Request to see a business license and proof of insurance.
  • Pay in installments and wait for the repairs to be completed to make the last payment.
  • Always get everything in writing—a legal contract is your safety net should any issues arise.

Do a VIN check before buying a car.

After Hurricane Katrina, fraudsters were fixing up cars damaged by the flooding and selling them—leaving their victims with a lemon. Conducting a vehicle inspection number check will tell you if the vehicle had previous repairs or damage.

How supporters can avoid fraud

Spot fake charities. Don’t let scammers take advantage of your generosity. Doing your own research is imperative before making any donations.

Conning charities and fraudulent fundraisers may do any of the following:

  • Refuse to tell you the details: their mission, identity, cost or how your donation will be used
  • Ask for cash donations
  • Ask you to wire money
  • Thank you for a donation you didn’t make
  • Try to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to research
  • Use a similar name as an established charity
  • Refuse to give you proof that a donation is tax deductible
  • Offer to provide an overnight shipping service to collect a donation
Beware of internet charity scams. Before Hurricane Katrina even hit, scammers had registered dozens of websites with “Katrina” in the name to pose as charities. These sophisticated scams circulate quickly on social media, so watch out. Once someone makes the mistake of falling for a scam, the fraudsters will lure in the victim’s social network, knowing that people are more likely to trust what their friends like.
  • Be careful of which websites you give your email to.
  • Any organization asking you to send money overseas is a scam.
  • Do not open email attachments— real emails from real charity organizations will not typically include attachments and an unsolicited attachment may lead to a computer virus.
  • Investigate the charity’s website. Legitimate charities’ web addresses typically end in .org, not .com. You can also rule out any website that asks for your personal information.
  • Be cautious of people claiming to be victims. If someone contacts you directly for help with something like a disaster or disease, they are likely scamming you.
  • Do not donate immediately over the phone. Do your research.
You can help those affected by Harvey and Irma by sharing these tips with others. When more people are informed of these scams, more victims can get the help they need.

Trustworthy ways to support hurricane victims

Western Colorado may be miles from the areas most affected by Harvey and Irma, but residents can still lend their support to victims using tried and true charities.


Donate by visiting or text RELIEF to 864233 to make a $10 donation for children impacted by natural disasters.

American Red Cross

Help hurricane victims by visiting and selecting the cause of your choice from the drop-down menu.

For pets

To help the non-human victims of both hurricanes, visit or

Justin Lavelle is chief communications officer at BeenVerified is the fast, affordable and easy way to access public records and search for people. Find out ages, marital status, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, criminal records and more.

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