Be­ware of hur­ri­cane re­lief scams

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page -

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Chris Carr warns con­sumers to be on the look­out for scams in the wake of Hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Irma. Bo­gus Char­i­ties See­ing or hear­ing about the dev­as­ta­tion caused by a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter evokes our sym­pa­thies and our de­sire to help those af­fected. Un­for­tu­nately, scam­mers re­al­ize this and do not hes­i­tate to take ad­van­tage of peo­ple’s height­ened emo­tions. They may pose as rep­utable char­i­ties so­lic­it­ing dona­tions and tar­get con­sumers through un­so­licited emails, tele­mar­ket­ing calls or by knock­ing on their doors. They of­ten cre­ate le­git­i­mate-look­ing web­sites that have sim­i­lar names as ac­tual char­i­ties, some­times even us­ing the ac­tual logo of a rep­utable re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion. To make sure you are do­nat­ing to a le­git­i­mate char­ity, our of­fice rec­om­mends the fol­low­ing tips:

•Don’t re­spond to un­so­licited emails and avoid click­ing on any links they con­tain. Only open at­tach­ments from senders you know and trust.

•Don’t give out money over the phone un­less you have ini­ti­ated the call and are con­fi­dent that the char­ity is le­git­i­mate.

•You can re­search a char­ity by go­ing to www.give.org or www. char­i­ty­nav­i­ga­tor.org

•Look up the ac­tual web­site of the char­ity you want to do­nate to rather than trust­ing a link from an email or pop-up ad.

•Note that le­git­i­mate char­i­ties’ web­sites typ­i­cally end in .org, not .com

•Be cau­tious of crowd­fund­ing sites. Since some crowd­fund­ing sites do lit­tle to vet peo­ple who post for as­sis­tance after a dis­as­ter, be ex­tra dili­gent about do­nat­ing this way. The Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau warns that some in­di­vid­u­als post­ing for dona­tions may not have any of­fi­cial con­nec­tion to a char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion or could be us­ing names and pho­tos of vic­tims with­out their fam­i­lies’ per­mis­sion. Home Re­pair Fraud Fol­low­ing a weather-re­lated emer­gency, scam­mers of­ten show up of­fer­ing to help with tree re­moval and home re­pair work. Our of­fice ad­vises con­sumers to do busi­ness with lo­cal firms that are well-es­tab­lished and whose ref­er­ences can be checked. Do not give in­di­vid­u­als money up-front based upon the prom­ise that they will be back to do the work. In ad­di­tion, we sug­gest the fol­low­ing be­fore hir­ing some­one to do home re­pairs:

•Ask friends, neigh­bors and co­work­ers for re­fer­rals.

•Check with the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau (www.bbb.org) to see if there are any com­plaints against the busi­ness.

•Make sure that gen­eral con­trac­tors, electricians, plumbers and heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing con­trac­tors are li­censed. You can ver­ify this on the Sec­re­tary of State’s web­site: www.sos.georgia.gov. Note that cer­tain spe­cialty oc­cu­pa­tions such as roofers, painters, dry­wall con­trac­tors and re­pair handy­men are not re­quired to be li­censed by the state.

•Get writ­ten bids from sev­eral con­trac­tors. Be skep­ti­cal if the bid is too low. Cheaper is not nec­es­sar­ily bet­ter. Ask for ref­er­ences and check them out.

•Al­ways in­sist on a writ­ten con­tract for work to be per­formed, with all guar­an­tees, war­ranties and prom­ises in writ­ing.

•Ask to see proof of in­sur­ance (per­sonal li­a­bil­ity, work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion and prop­erty dam­age).

•Never pay for the en­tire pro­ject be­fore the work be­gins. A small pay­ment may be due up­front, but don’t pay in full un­til the pro­ject has been com­pleted to your sat­is­fac­tion.

•Pay­ing with a credit card in­stead of cash will give you more pro­tec­tions against fraud. Im­posters Scam­mers may also try to steal your money by pos­ing as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from an in­sur­ance com­pany, Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA), Small Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion (SBA) or law en­force­ment. Don’t give out per­sonal or fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion to some­one you don’t know. Re­mem­ber that the ser­vices of­fered by FEMA and SBA are free, so if a “rep­re­sen­ta­tive” asks you for pay­ment, it’s a scam.

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