7 Common Scams to Watch Out for During and After Disasters

Natural disasters and emergencies are often accompanied by an increasing amount of scams and frauds. Scammers try to exploit the vulnerability of people by taking advantage of their emotional state to swindle them of their money. This, unfortunately, results in unsuspecting people losing their hard-earned funds, which can be prevented.

Scams During and After Disasters

In this blog, we will discuss several reasons why it is important to stay vigilant of scams after disasters. Read on to learn how to protect yourself from scam artists who prey on the vulnerable.

The Rise of Scams During and After Disasters

One of the primary reasons for the surge in scams during and after disasters is the chaos and disruption caused by the event itself. There is an environment of uncertainty and confusion, providing scammers with an opportunity to exploit the situation.

They may pose as charitable organizations, governmental agencies, or even impersonate victims themselves, preying on the goodwill of others.

Furthermore, disasters can cut off access to essential services and infrastructure, making it challenging for people to access accurate information and resources.

Scammers pretend to be legitimate sources of aid by creating fake websites, distributing phony flyers, or even making unsolicited phone calls or emails, all with the intention of deceiving unsuspecting victims.

Among the most common frauds committed by con artists are the following:

Financial Scams

Financial scams have become prevalent during times of disaster. They aim to prey on the people’s desperation and willingness to help and support. One common scam that arises is the establishment of fake charities.

Seemingly legitimate organizations are created, complete with websites and donation pages. They convince individuals to contribute funds. However, money collected rarely reaches those in need and instead lines the pockets of the scammers themselves. 

Insurance fraud is another financial scam that thrives in the wake of a disaster. Fraudsters take advantage of policyholders who are filing claims for property damage or loss.

They may offer inflated repair estimates or even fake damage altogether, aiming to receive a larger payout from the insurance company.

Additionally, scams involving fraudulent contractors and repair services are common after a disaster. These individuals may pose as licensed professionals, promising quick and affordable repairs, only to deliver shoddy workmanship or disappear with the payment. 

It is always important to stay vigilant and educate yourself and your loved ones about these financial scams that increase after disasters.

Also Read: Top Easy Ways to Save Money Quickly

Cyber Scams

In the wake of a disaster, the vulnerable are not only susceptible to physical harm but also to cyber scams.

Cybercriminals are known to exploit the chaos and confusion surrounding disasters to prey on unsuspecting victims. Here is what they usually employ:

1. Phishing Attacks

Scammers may pose as legitimate organizations, such as relief agencies or government entities, and send out emails or messages requesting personal information or financial assistance.

These deceptive tactics aim to trick individuals into revealing sensitive data or making fraudulent donations.

2. Malware Infections

Cybercriminals often distribute malware through fake websites, malicious links, or infected files disguised as disaster-related resources.

Once downloaded, these malware programs can compromise your computer system, steal sensitive data, or even take control of your device.

3. Social Media Scams

Disasters tend to generate a significant amount of attention on social media platforms. This is exploited by criminals by creating fake accounts or posting misleading information to trick users into sharing personal details or clicking on malicious links. 

To protect yourself from such online threats, it is essential to be extra cautious and follow generally accepted digital safety practices.

Price Gouging and Fraudulent Sales

Price gouging occurs when sellers dramatically increase the price of essential goods and services, such as food, water, fuel, and shelter, during or immediately after a disaster.

This exploitative behavior targets those in urgent need, often leaving them with no choice but to pay exorbitant prices for necessities.

Fraudulent sales, on the other hand, involve the sale of counterfeit or substandard products that may claim to provide relief or assistance.

Scammers take advantage of people’s desperation and vulnerability, offering products that are ineffective, unsafe, or non-existent.

Deceptive Rental and Housing Scams

These types of scams can take various forms, such as fake rental listings, fraudulent property management companies, or individuals posing as landlords. They exploit the urgency and emotional distress of those affected by the disaster.

One common scam involves posing attractive rental properties at unbelievably low prices, enticing victims with the promise of affordable housing.

However, once the unsuspecting victims pay the initial deposit or rent, they soon realize that the property does not exist or is already occupied by someone else. Scammers also deploy the tactic of posing as legitimate property owners or rental agencies.

They may present convincing albeit false documents, forge contracts, and demand upfront payments or personal information. Victims, desperate to secure housing quickly, may overlook the red flags and fall victim to these scams.

Fraudulent Government Assistance Programs

It is important to remember that legitimate government assistance programs will never ask for sensitive information over the phone or through unsolicited emails. Yet, scammers do a convincing job and fool a vast majority of people.

They might cleverly ask for personal information, such as social security numbers or bank account details, claiming it is necessary for processing the assistance.

Whenever someone calls you with requests for your personal information, use PhoneHistory, a reverse phone number lookup.

There is a high probability that the service has all the details of the number you were contacted from, which can help you understand who exactly you are dealing with.

Job Scams and Fake Employment Opportunities

Although job opportunities are always present, some of them might look too enticing after a disaster. If they are too good to be true, then they really might be scams.

There are some clear signs of such bogus jobs, such as:

  •    Asking for an upfront payment
  •    Requests of personal information during the hiring process
  •    Vague job descriptions
  •    Unrealistic salary offers
  •    No contact information

Scammers might use sophisticated tactics to appear credible, so it is crucial to remain vigilant. Protect yourself by trusting your instincts and conducting due diligence.

Fake Disaster-Related Products and Services

Immediate relief is something all disaster-stricken people look for. This is another thing scammers take advantage of when they see an opportunity.

They might sell counterfeit emergency kits that are filled with subpar or expired supplies, making them useless in a real emergency. 

Additionally, fake disaster-related services may offer clean-up assistance or quick repairs at exorbitant prices, preying on those who are eager to get back to their normal lives.

Also Read: How to Protect Your Digital Privacy?

Final Thoughts

In times of crisis, one must always be wary of the underhanded tactics used by scammers. By taking proactive measures, you can protect yourself from deceitful schemes. 

Remember, knowledge is power. You can share this knowledge further and protect your loved ones and friends from such activities. 

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