It happens after every disaster – scammers swing into action to target vulnerable consumers and those who are trying to help. After tornadoes and strong storms tore though North Texas the night of May 15, 2013, BBB Dallas tells what you need to know about online scams, roofing and home repair scams, and phony appeals for disaster relief.
Phishing, Smishing, and Spoofing
• Watch out for phishing emails offering a link to video of the storms or damage. If you click on a link or download, you could find that you’ve turned over sensitive personal information or downloaded malware that would harm your computer.
• Phony text messages, called smishing, could seek donations or offer a link to information. Clicking on the link could lead to a page where personal information would be collected for identity theft. Or exorbitant charges could be added to your phone bill.
• Scammers can spoof the number or name that appears on caller ID to make it appear that a charity is calling for donations.
• If your property is damaged, check with your insurance company as soon as possible. Make any temporary repairs that may be necessary and keep receipts.
• Get everything in writing, including a permanent address and phone number for the business. Dallas BBB warns to beware of high pressure to sign right away or scare tactics about the condition of your property. Don’t make a large down payment or pay in full until everything is completed to your satisfaction.
• Make sure you know what you’re signing. Is it an estimate or a contract? Watch out for agreements that call for consumers to pay a sizable fee just for cancelling.
• Find lists of BBB Accredited Businesses who are screened, approved and monitored at http://www.bbb.org/dallas/accredited-business-directory. Among the categories are:
Roof Repairs and Roofing Contractors
Carpet and Rug Cleaners
Water Damage Restoration
Contractors – General
Hauling and Clean Up Services, and Debris Removal
• Beware of high pressure to give or appeals that are heavy on emotions but short on specifics about what the group is doing. Check out charities with BBB Wise Giving Alliance and find tips on giving at www.give.org.
• Remember that the community’s needs will be ongoing, and your contribution will be appreciated as much later as right away. You can take time to find out about charities and think about the causes you want to support.
• If you are donating items, make sure the organization collecting the goods has verified that the goods are actually needed and can deliver the items. You may want to consider a donation of money instead. Disaster relief organizations usually need cash to buy what’s needed and get it where it can be used.