There are a lot of scams being perpetrated by the unscrupulous wanting to make a buck. Many of them are surprisingly simple to pull off and therefore, persist and evolve over time and to keep up with current events. With the recent weather patterns depositing massive amounts of wind and water on land causing millions of dollars in damages, it’s not unusual to see an uptick in scams that take advantage of human suffering and compassion. Following are several of the most common ones that are currently making the rounds.

1. Disaster Relief/Charity

Americans are an empathetic group and scammers are very aware of this fact. That’s why scams persist in piggybacking on natural disasters such as the recent one, Harvey that hit the Gulf Coast of the U.S. Similar ones that appeared after Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Nepal, and others.

Often these are so successful because they spread very quickly on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s likely that the upcoming Hurricane Irma, expected to hit the coast of the U.S. by this weekend, will be used in such scams in the very near term. So it is smart to be aware of these scams so that you don’t fall for them.

  • When natural disasters happen and you want to send money, donate through a well-known and respected charity. They will accept payment cards on their websites, can add it to your mobile bill via well-advertised text numbers, and deduct it directly from your bank account at some ATMs. All are a better option than clicking links seen in email or on social media.

2. Insurance Scams

In the case of hurricanes and flooding, the Federal Trade Commission receives many complaints about flood insurance scams targeting those in the affected areas. Homeowners receive robocalls claiming that their insurance premiums are overdue. To receive compensation for flood damage, money needs to be paid immediately.

  • Work with your insurance agent when filing claims against your policies. This goes for any type of insurance for which you pay premiums. Your agent will be able to assist you on a personal level.

3. Dying or Sick Baby

The Dying or Sick Baby version is when someone pretends they have a very sick or dying child who needs medical care. In a twist, often seen on Facebook and other social media are desperate requests for some type of assistance to pay recovery costs for friends or friends of friends with links to crowdfunding sites. While some of these may be legitimate, be aware that it is a very common scam as well.

  • When sharing requests for donations on social media, verify that the need is real before passing it on to your friends. If you cannot trace it back to someone in your network, reconsider if you want to forward it on to your friends, family, or colleagues.
  • Always take time to verify any such stories independently; even if it sounds like a very urgent matter. It doesn’t usually take much time to confirm if a relative or friend is sick or really does need help. If you cannot verify it, don’t send money.


4. Phishing and Copycat Scams

Finally, always watch out for phishing scams. These usually increase during times of crisis. Don’t click links or attachment from unknown persons or if the content is unexpected. If you want to help, verify with the sender before clicking. Copycat scammers will use website addresses that are very similar to the ones for which we are all familiar with during natural disasters and emergencies. Check URLs closely before clicking them and if the name is slightly different or the site is not secure (there is no padlock icon, no “https” preceding the address, or some other indication of safety), don’t put in any sensitive information.

As always, if you are told that cash, gift cards, a money service such as Western Union, or pre-paid cards are the only form of payment accepted, question the legitimacy of any request.

If you come across these scams or have been a victim, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There is information at the website on how to do this efficiently.

Donovan B. Fox © Copyright 2017 SDFCU.org