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Beware Of Fake Contractors In Georgia

November 1, 2016

Fraudulent Disaster Workers Scam Hurricane Matthew Victims

People in Georgia whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Matthew are being solicited by professional cons. Beware of fake inspectors, government officials, contractors or even fake volunteers as they try to collect your personal information or payment for their assistance.

Who Would Victimize Victims?

Criminals taking advantage of disaster victims include identity thieves, cyber criminals sending out fake emails with malware and dishonest people posing as official contractors. Some social engineering scams involve people posing as volunteers. They ask for cash claiming to collect funds for disaster relief.

How Do I Know I’m Being Scammed?

Scammers take advantage of people’s goodwill and try to get cash donations for a fake cause. Some behaviors should raise a red flag to the possibility that you’re being conned. The Federal Trade Commission has issued a checklist to help identify if a charity is legitimate or not. When dealing with charities, do the following:

  • Ask questions.
    It’s your money, so don’t be shy to ask detailed questions. Ask the solicitor if they are a paid fundraiser and who they work for. Ask them how long they have been around and be wary of charities that have popped up overnight.
  • Call the charity.
    Ask for printed brochures that include a full name, an address and phone number. Call the phone number and find out if the organization has authorized the solicitation. If they are unaware, you could be getting bamboozled.
  • Pay attention to the name.
    Does the name sound familiar enough to be real but maybe slightly off? Fake names that are similar to respected charity names is a technique used by scam artists.
  • Don’t give cash.
    Requesting cash donations is a hallmark of fraudulent charities. Don't give cash. For security and your own tax purposes, it’s best to pay by credit card. If you’re making a donation online, make sure that the url is secure (“https:”).

Some unscrupulous frauds will pose as “official” FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) contractors. Know that there is no such thing. They take advantage of the fact that many legitimate disaster assistance employees may be around your house like insurance agents, inspectors and power companies. When it comes to contractors, keep this checklist in mind:

  • Federal workers do not ask for money.
    FEMA employees never charge for disaster assistance, inspections or for help filling out applications. They never request or accept payment for their services.
  • FEMA staff are identifiable.
    They always wear FEMA shirts and have their federal IDs.
  • FEMA does not have “approved” contractors.
    Don’t deal with high-pressure, price-gouging contractors who claim to be affiliated with FEMA.

What should I do If I Think Someone Is A Fraud?

If you think you may have been approached by a fraud, simply send them along their way and don’t deal with them. If you feel you have been duped, file a complaint through the Consumer Protection Unit from the Georgia Department of Law.

If you’re a resident of Georgia and you’ve suffered damage to your house, be aware that you may be a target for unsolicited and fraudulent assistance. Whether it’s a cyber criminal posing as your power company to get personal information, fake charities asking for money or good old-fashioned price gouging, be careful and diligent. Ask to see badges, licenses and understand that Federal workers never solicit or accept money for disaster assistance.

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About the Author

April Lentini is the Content Strategist for GeorgiaGov. She empowers content managers for government agencies, helping them understand and improve their website content for optimal usability.

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