Consumer Alert: Disaster-Related Financial Scams
Tallahassee, Fla. – Hurricane Season is underway and the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) reminds consumers to be wary of disaster-related financial scams that can become prevalent during this time of year. When disaster strikes, scam artists often flood the area to cash in on the rebuilding effort, taking advantage of vulnerable residents. The first step in protecting yourself is knowing how to identify scammers before it’s too late.
Good people who want to help victims of a disaster can become victims by donating to fake charities. Fraudulent charitable organizations typically use the same methods as legitimate charities to solicit a donation. You may be contacted by phone, email or mail. Common red flags may be:
- High-pressure sales tactics that request a donation immediately.
- Soliciting cash donations only.
- Refusing to provide information about the organization or refusal to provide tax deduction information.
Be sure to research any organization before doing business with them. Read the name of the charity carefully. Many fraudulent charitable organizations trick contributors by using names similar to legitimate, well-known charities. Ask for detailed information about the charity, such as address, mission, how much of your donation will go to the actual cause and how much will be used for other costs. The nation’s largest evaluator of charities, http://www.charitynavigator.org/, offers a free service that provides assessments of legitimate charities and their fundraising efficiency. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau for more information. Report any suspected charity scams to the Federal Trade Commission through their online Compliant Assistant, www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
It is important to be cautious of individuals calling or going door-to-door impersonating representatives of various organizations. To avoid becoming the victim of identity theft or fraud, never give out your Social Security Number, banking information or any form of personal information without contacting the organization or company.
If you feel that you may be a victim of fraud or to report suspicious activity, please file a complaint with the OFR online, www.flofr.com, or call (850) 487-9687.
The Florida Office of Financial Regulation provides regulatory oversight for Florida’s financial services providers. Our mission is to protect Floridians, promote a safe and sound financial marketplace, and contribute to the growth of Florida’s economy with smart, efficient and effective regulation of the financial services industry.
Contact: Jamie Mongiovi, (850) 410-9709