Whether you are boarding up your windows for an impending hurricane or beginning to recover from a different natural disaster, thinking about protecting yourself against fraud is probably not at the top of your list.
Recently, category 4 Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas. Looming on the horizon is Hurricane Irma, which ranks among the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded and is expected to impact Florida this weekend. Hurricane Jose is also under close watch in the Atlantic Ocean.
“In the preparation and aftermath of a major hurricane or any other type of natural disaster – the opportunity for fraud exists from multiple angles,” said Trevor Buxton, a fraud awareness and communications manager and Certified Fraud Examiner with PNC Bank.
With this recent flurry of hurricanes, you should be aware of potential scams so you can help protect your finances.
Cyber criminals take advantage of consumer vulnerability during natural disasters. They will most likely use the recent hurricanes as a catalyst to try to trick you.
“Phishing presents the fastest route to the victim’s money,” said Buxton. “Out of several thousand phishing attempts, it only takes a handful of successful bites for a fraudster to turn a profit.”
For example, cyber criminals could compose an email message tempting you to click on a link that contains “urgent news about Hurricane Irma evacuations” or text message asking you to send personal or banking information to donate to relief efforts. PNC offers tips to help you learn how to identify a phishing attempt.
Public advisories regarding phishing scams in the wake of hurricanes are available from the United States Emergency Readiness Team.
In addition to phishing scams, fictitious charities pop up during and after natural disasters, soliciting all types of donations such as money, medications, or other goods, including food or power generators.
Websites such as GuideStar.org or CharityNavigator.org help donors determine whether their relief funds are going to a legitimate charity. If the organization is not found on one of these websites, it may be a scam.
To help avoid charity fraud, follow these tips:
Learn more about if you are financially prepared to weather a natural disaster »
Natural disasters can bring out the best and the worst in people. Those who want to aid in recovery are at risk of being exploited by fraudsters seeking to profit from misfortune, so it’s important to take steps to protect yourself.
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