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Charity and Home Repair Scams Likely After Disaster

Charity and Home Repair Scams Likely After Disaster

Don't be too quick to be generous - or to hire a contractor

September 2nd, 2012 by James Limbach of ConsumerAffairs in News

As what's left of Isaac strikes spreads its misery along the Gulf Coast with an eye on the Midwest, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reminding consumers that scams often follow disasters. 

The nation's consumer protection agency warns against getting taken in by urgent appeals for charitable donations, and cautions residents in stricken areas about fraudulent home repair offers. 

Making donations 

If you're asked to make a charitable donation to help people in disaster-affected areas, consider these tips to giving wisely: 

  • Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight.
  • Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don't get a clear answer -- or if you don't like the answer you get -- consider donating to a different organization.
  • Do not give out personal or financial information -- including your credit card or bank account number -- unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • Never send cash: you can't be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won't have a record for tax purposes.
  • Check out a charity before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance. 

Tips for residents 

Fraudsters target disaster-affected areas, hoping to cash in on property owners' insurance settlements and financial relief from the federal government. Home and business owners who need to hire a contractor should: 

  • Ask for copies of the contractor's general liability and worker's compensation insurance.
  • Check the contractor's identification and references.
  • Avoid paying more than the minimum in advance.
  • Deal with reputable people in your community.
  • Call local law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau if you suspect a con.