There is no tragedy or natural disaster that scammers and criminals won’t stoop to exploit, and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is proving to be no exception.
Authorities at the FTC, the FBI, and US-CERT are warning consumers about a variety of phone and email scams in which fraudsters are using charitable donations or other lures connected to Hurricane Harvey to bilk victims. Many of the scams prey on victims’ willingness to make donations to charities working to help those affected by the storm, using phishing emails that include links to malicious sites. The emails often fake the look and feel of messages from real charities, but have no connection to those organizations. Links in those emails will direct recipients to phishing sites that collect victims’ personal information and steal donations meant for legitimate charities.
“Unfortunately, criminals can exploit disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, for their own gain by sending fraudulent communications through e-mail or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions,” the National Center for Disaster Fraud warned.
These email phishing scams connected to natural disasters have been around for many years, but really took off after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A slew of schemes emerged after that disaster, and the Department of Justice formed the National Center for Disaster Fraud around that time to deal with them. Now, phone fraud scammers are joining the fray too, specifically with schemes that try to pressure storm victims into making payments over the phone for their flood insurance policies.
“In order to have coverage for Hurricane Harvey, consumers are told they need to submit a payment immediately. Don’t do it. Instead, contact your insurance agent. The agent who handles your homeowners or renters insurance policy could be the same agent who handles your flood insurance policy,” Colleen Tressler of the FTC said.
Officials at the FBI and the NCDF advise consumers to contact legitimate charities directly if they’re interested in making donations for Hurricane Harvey relief, or after any natural disaster.