How to spot post-disaster scams

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 2:39 PM EDT
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(CNN) – From the devastating wildfires ravaging the West, to the aftermath of hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, a lot of people are in need.

But scammers don’t stop when times are hard. If you’re a natural disaster victim, the Federal Trade Commission says to be skeptical of anyone promising immediate clean-up and debris removal.

Before you pay, check them out. Ask for IDs, licenses and proof of insurance, and get promises in writing.

Know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for federal funds, that’s probably a scam.

Never make a final payment until the work is done and you’re satisfied.

Whether you’re going through a disaster or wanting to help those who have, never pay or donate money by wire transfer, gift card or in cash.

You can also avoid charity scams by doing your research. When you consider giving to a specific organization, search its name along with words like “complaint,” “review” or “scam.”

Keep scammers' tricks in mind, and don’t be rushed into making a donation. If you see any red flags, or if you’re not sure about how a charity will use your donation, consider giving to a different organization.

There are also several organizations the Federal Trade Commission says will help you research charities, including the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and GuideStar.

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