As Americans open their hearts and wallets to help Hurricane Ian victims — who serve to provide food, shelter and care to those affected by the devastating hurricane — scammers are playing on your emotions to trick you.
In fact, the FBI office in Tampa did tweeted a warning against “scammers trying to use a natural disaster like Hurricane Ian to steal your money, personal information, or both”.
In some cases, Florida residents are being approached door-to-door by bogus charities or property insurance scammers, while others across the country are receiving cold calls, texts, emails, or social media messages asking donors to dig deep for Hurricane Ian victims dig .
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But before you put your hand in your pocket, the bureau says it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure it’s a legitimate charity — or the person reaching out to you really is part of the legitimate one charity is.
Charity fraud warning sign
While scammers target victims year-round, they often tie it to something more timely for maximum impact, whether it’s tax-time phishing attempts, Valentine’s Day romance scams, pandemic-related schemes, wars (like we did with the cases of fraud related to aid to Ukraine). last spring) or after natural disasters.
To avoid becoming a victim of a scam, the FBI has listed several tips to follow and warning signs to recognize, as well as some advice from the Federal Trade Commission).
Here are the key takeaways, plus some additional advice to avoid being duped:
►Note that charity scams can come in a variety of forms. Remember to gently remind your relatives – including seniors who are close to you, as they are often in the target group – not to give if they haven’t done their homework. Criminals will call, send fake texts and emails, send you private messages on Facebook and other social platforms, or pretend to be part of a crowdfunding campaign. You can also go door-to-door with a clipboard and a smile.
►One warning sign is pressure to give immediately. A legitimate charity will welcome your generous donation whenever you choose to do so.
►The FBI warns about unethical contractors and other scammers who commit insurance fraud after a natural disaster or other emergency, essentially re-sacrificing people whose homes or businesses have been damaged. If you need repairs after a disaster, do your research before hiring a contractor.
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►Only give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust. If it’s an unknown organization that you still want to donate to, visit their website and ask for financial information. The FTC also recommends searching for a charity’s name using terms such as “complaints” and “scams.”
►Don’t think you can spot scams from emails or websites with misspellings, awkward wording, or poor grammar. These used to be indications of fraud, but scammers are becoming more sophisticated.
►Watch out for organizations with knock-off names or names resembling legitimate organizations (“US Red Cross” instead of “American Red Cross”). If the person contacts you to donate on behalf of a reputable charity, ask for proof that they actually work or volunteer for that particular organization.
►A common tactic is to say thank you for a previous donation you don’t remember making and then ask if you can help again.
►Donate by credit card only. If a charity or organization asks you to donate in cash, gift card, virtual currency/cryptocurrency, or wire transfer, it is likely a scam. This is because these payment methods are difficult to trace.
►You can report fraud to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov.
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Practice good “cyber hygiene”
A few additional suggestions you can adopt (and share) to reduce the chances of someone stealing your money or personal information:
Just click “Delete”: Be suspicious of attachments in email, text messages, or via social media. They may contain malware. Also be careful with links to a website. If you accidentally click and land on a page designed to look like Facebook, for example — it may have a similar blue logo and a familiar layout — the site name you see in the link at the top of the page is different. Delete these messages as soon as they arrive in your inbox. Hang up on automatic callers and block the number.
Change your password frequently: Many of us are guilty of not changing passwords regularly or using the same password for most or all online activities. A trustworthy password manager app can help. While it’s less convenient, also enable two-factor authentication. This way, not only do you need your password to log into your inline activities, but you also need a one-time code sent to your mobile device to verify it’s really you.
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Enable automatic updates: This way, the operating systems on your desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet will be updated whenever software patches for vulnerabilities are released. In this regard, be sure to use anti-virus software and keep it up to date.
Narrow your circle: Never accept a social media invitation from someone you don’t know — or worse, a faceless “Facebook user.” Only keep your account closed to friends you verify one by one.
Emergency systems are on the rise: Watch out for “grandparent scams” where you receive a text or phone call that appears to be from a relative stating that the loved one needs money because of a situation they’ve gotten themselves into. When in doubt, reach out to the person you know off social media.
Follow Marc on Twitter for his Tech Tip of the Day posts: @marc_saltzmann. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Ian charity scam is out of control. Here’s what you should know.