While natural disasters bring out the worst elements of nature, it can bring out the best in humanity. There is often a tremendous outpouring of support and generosity toward those affected. Unfortunately there is also a darker underside, as the opportunity arises to take advantage of the good intentions of others or the desperation of victims.
In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the IRS and various agencies and groups focused on fraud prevention and detection are warning the public about the natural-disaster scams that will certainly follow. These include:
- Charitable giving schemes, where fraudsters solicit money on behalf of actual or invented charitable organization and then divert those funds to their own purposes.
- Tax related schemes to obtain personal data for identity theft. These fraudsters call, claiming to work for the IRS, and represent that they are helping victims file casualty loss claims to obtain refunds.
- Insurance related scams, which similarly attempt to solicit personal information, but under the guise of processing an insurance claim.
One of the easiest way to avoid such scams is to avoid engaging with anyone who calls or otherwise contacts you unsolicited. Donations should be made through known avenues, to reputable charitable organizations. For help with IRS tax relief or insurance claims, hurricane victims should reach out to these organizations directly, rather than provide any information to someone who contacts them. Individuals should also take care to warn elderly family members of these risks, as they are often specifically targeted by fraudsters.