The Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to threaten the environmental and economic health of the Gulf Coast. In the wake of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, a coordinated effort is underway to clean up the spill and provide aid to affected families. Your Better Business Bureau warns that the recovery effort creates a great opportunity for scammers to make an easy dollar by deceiving those who are trying to find work, file claims with BP or donate money or volunteer to help with the cleanup.
“It’s tragic that scammers are taking advantage of an already disastrous situation,” said Becky Maier, BBB Public Relations Director. “Unfortunately, history has shown that in the wake of a national disaster, scammers find a variety of ways to prey on the misfortune of others.”
Whether you’re looking for work or financial assistance or want to help out by donating money or volunteering your time, BBB recommends doing your research and avoiding the following scams:
The Job Scam: Several organizations including BP and BBB have reported on job scams in the wake of the oil spill. Most commonly, job hunters say they were told to pay an upfront fee to get a job or pay for training. BBB has also heard from people who were recruited for cleanup work by outfits that did not seem to have a contract with BP.
Jobs available directly with BP are posted on BP’s website. For jobs through the state, such as Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, you can visit the states’ job websites. If you have been recruited by a company that claims to have a contract with BP, research the business fully and try to confirm with BP that they are a legitimate employer for the oil spill clean up. BBB advises job hunters to be wary of companies that require applicants to pay an upfront fee.
The vast majority of jobs created will go to Gulf residents or industry specialists. Many of the jobs involved in the cleanup also require specific training or certifications, such as Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training. For most cleanup jobs, the employer will provide appropriate training for new employees.
The Claim Scam: Unsolicited e-mails claiming that the recipients qualify for compensation from BP are landing in inboxes. Additionally, the FTC warns against phony adjusters who ask for fees to expedite services
BP is accepting claims from individuals and businesses for property damage, loss of income and bodily injury or illness. At this point it is unclear whether or not BP is accepting claims from vacationers who are seeking reimbursement for cancelled trips to the Gulf.
The toll-free BP claims line is 1-800-440-0858. The line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or you can file a claim online through BP’s website. Additionally, there are many claims offices along the Gulf Coast. More information is available through the Deepwater Horizon Response website and on BP’s website.
The Charity Scam: Following any major disaster, scammers will pose as charitable organizations and try to solicit donations from well-meaning individuals.
The oil spill is unlike previous disasters and constraints in the clean up effort limit what charities can do with your money or how you can volunteer.
While you can’t donate or volunteer to clean up oil, opportunities may include shoreline monitoring, fund raising, office work help in food programs for families in need and providing transportation. Numerous charities with volunteer programs ask that you register with them so that they can assess your skills and place you appropriately when openings arise. BBB Wise Giving Alliance has compiled a list of nationally soliciting charities which meet BBB standards that are asking for donations and volunteers for the Gulf effort.
How to Contact BP and Where to Report Fraud:
BP has set up phone numbers to address specific concerns surrounding the Oil Spill. You can find a contact list on their website.
BP has also set up a fraud hotline at 1-877-359-6281. Additionally, you can alert the FBI by calling (866) 720-5721 or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also contact your local BBB so we can help get the word out and warn other people.
For more advice on finding a job, funding your business or donating to a charity, visit http://www.bbb.org/us/Consumer-Tips/.