In the wake of any major and destructive weather event, there is always confusion, misinformation, and disarray. But if you’re lucky enough to live in a place like the U.S., there is also a massive outpouring of aid.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who use both post-disaster confusion as well as the goodwill of others to grab a piece of the aid pie.
That being said, here’s a helpful list from Identity Theft 911, a group that specializes in “identity and data risk management, resolution and education services,” detailing the top 5 best ways to avoid getting scammed by thieves looking to take advantage of Superstorm Sandy [all block quotes from Identity Theft 911]:
Protect important information and documents. Whether you’re in a shelter, staying with friends, or crashing on your family’s couch, never let these items leave your sight. They are the key to your identity -- and you will need this information to prove who you are.
Another tip: Ask the post office to hold your mail if you have to leave your home. This will keep the bad guys from finding sensitive information that may be left in your mailbox.
If you’ve experienced damage to any of your personal property, call your insurance company first. Don’t fall for fly-by-night “professionals” who make false guarantees about a claims check, damage appraisal, inspection or water quality testing.
Double check the legitimacy of the site you’re clicking to from your email, Facebook or elsewhere. When in doubt, check your local American Red Cross or the National FEMA site to find local help.
Fake charitable organizations
Watch out for scammy charitable organizations that have names similar to reputable institutions. These sites often end in .com (instead of the typical .org for nonprofits).
They’re designed to fool you into thinking you’re donating to a good cause when, in reality, you’re donating your money and personal and financial information to thieves.
Photos with malware
This scam strikes after any type of disaster or tragedy. Thieves count on people to be hungry for news, so they infect images and video with malware.
Stick with legitimate sites, such as your local news station or newspaper for the latest information. Be wary of links on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.
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All photos courtesy the AP.