Natural disasters and global outbreaks, every year we see more of them.  But, this blog isn’t about climate change, science, health, or whether you believe in any of it.  Nope, today we’re focusing on what happens afterwards.  That moment where your benevolent side takes over from your day-to-day grind and you decide to give back to help those in need, which is a fundamental aspect of connecting to the outside world.  After all, our humanity is what we all have in common.

I have family that works for a well-established not-for-profit global relief organization.  It’s interesting to hear her discuss the excitement that her and her fellow aid workers share in a time of crisis.  They’re excited to fulfill a purpose: to help others in need.  That’s what they get excited about, and without those types of people the world would be a much darker place.

On the opposite end of that spectrum we have the other folks.  Those looking to turn a profit after disaster or a major outbreak has struck.  It’s become increasingly more common, and unfortunately, increasingly more effective.  Tactics are used that tap into human emotion and those tactics are being used to get money and information out of us.  To hit the masses, their arsenal uses email scams through phishing, voice scams through vishing, or a bolder option is to simply start cold calling through spoofed numbers.  But, lately, the tactics are even more personal and bold, such as posing as a FEMA, WHO (World Health Organization), disaster relief, or a charity representative and asking for personal information to setup their scam. In some case, simply to ask for money.  With the recent Coronavirus outbreak the social engineering has already started to entice victims to open malicious files.

Don’t fall victim to this predatory practice.  A couple of quick reminders to help protect ourselves:

  1. Many of the largest non-profit organizations do not send direct representatives to your door (unless you’re in the disaster area).  Most of them don’t even call or email you directly.  They have their sites and services setup directly for you to contact them.
  2. If you’ve had disaster hit and representatives do need to approach you, make sure to ask for identification and follow the government’s guidelines on these practices.
  3. If and when you choose to donate, go directly to their website. If you have questions about the organization, look them up to verify if they’re legit.
  4. If you have already provided money/information to a nefarious entity/individual, unfortunately it’s too late, but there are things you can do.
    1. Credit freeze (to prevent accounts being opened in your name) – don’t forget to do this for all three bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian)
    2. Credit monitoring services (Again, make sure that the service monitors all three major bureaus, plus your social security number)
    3. Calling your credit card company/contesting the charges
    4. Report what happened to the appropriate agencies (i.e. BBB and FTC)
    5. If a person approached you near your home, you may want to contact the local authorities as well
  5. Legit agencies don’t put unwanted pressure on people.  If it feels wrong it probably is.

For a complete list of instructions head to:

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/after-storms-watch-out-scams

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-do-i-recognize-and-prevent-against-fraud-after-a-natural-disaster-en-1529/

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-warns-of-scams-related-to-natural-disasters