Live 5 Scambusters: Avoiding disaster scams after Hurricane Dorian

VIDEO - Live 5 Scambusters: Avoiding disaster scams after Hurricane Dorian

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Scam artists follow the headlines and have already been targeting the Lowcountry after Hurricane Dorian.

A few common scams pop up after hurricanes and other natural disasters and scam artists target victims who may already be vulnerable. They may reach out by phone or show up in person offering to help with storm cleanup or repairs.

“You should always be wary of people who just show up,” Bailey Parker of South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs said.

SCDCA says the best way to avoid scams after a disaster is to do your research. That can be a challenge for someone who’s been through a traumatic event.

“They’re in vulnerable positions,” Parker said. “Maybe they have some damage on their homes and so when somebody calls and says they can fix it, OK, yeah I don’t have the time or even the head space to think about doing the research.”

SCDCA has these red flags to keep in mind to avoid falling victim to a repair scam after a storm:

  • Beware of contractors who just show up.
  • Get everything in writing before you agree to pay someone for work.
  • If you feel pressured it's OK to walk away.
  • Make sure the contractor is licensed and check references.
  • Never pay up front.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be from federal or state agency assessing damage, it may not be real. Scam artists can spoof a phone number to appear its coming from FEMA or other another legitimate agency. If the caller starts asking for personal information that’s a red flag.

"If they're asking for that information, be very wary of those people, be protective of that information and don't give it to them," Parker said.

If you want to help others impacted by a hurricane or other disaster, only give to reputable charities and organizations you trust. SCDCA has a few tips to avoid fake charities:

  • Don't give to charities collecting money door-to-door.
  • Don't give cash. This is for your own security and also for tax purposes.
  • Don't give money to anyone who calls you on the phone asking for money.
  • Give to established and recognized charities.

Check out charities online through the Secretary of State’s office by calling 888-CHARITI or online at www.scsos.com. Other sites to search charities include give.org, charitynavigator.org, charitywatch.org, and guidestar.org.

If you have a scam story to share, email Kyle Jordan at Scams@live5news.com.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. All rights reserved.