Common Scams that Take Advantage of Natural Disasters


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 and natural disasters. With Hurricane Florence and the start of hurricane season, 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.

Disaster Relief/Charity

Americans are an empathetic group and scammers are very aware. That’s why scams persist that piggyback on natural disasters such as the recent one, Harvey that hit the Gulf Coast of the U.S. Similar ones 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 Florence, expected to hit the Carolina’s soon will be used in such scams in the very near term, so be aware of these and 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.

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.

Card Skimming

The magnetic strips on the backs of credit and debit cards can easily be read by a skimmer. That’s a device that is installed on the card reader, often at ATMs or gas stations that records the strip information for the thieves. Be on the alert because those devices are not so difficult to spot because they are a bit “clunky” and are installed over the original reader on the machine.

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 during natural disasters and emergencies. Check URLs closely before clicking 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.

To help keep you safe, Family Trust offers an ID protection plan. IDProtect is a monitoring service that can help you prevent identity fraud and let you know if it happens so you can act quickly. Our Premier Choice Checking account offers this service for free. To enroll, call 1-803-367-4100 or visit a branch.

If you have received a scam call, text, or email, report your scam using the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you have experienced a scam where you have given out your information or notice fraudulent transactions on your account and/or credit report, call Family Trust at 803-367-4100 or visit a branch immediately.