The President has asked Americans all across the country to come together as a nation to help fellow citizens recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As the community steps up, so do the scammers.
In the devastating wake of Sandy, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a new warning for all investors to show caution against potential investment scams. As legitimate relief organizations, charities and investors combine efforts to address the destruction on the Eastern Seaboard, scammers seek opportunities to add to the list of victims through a growing number of schemes.
Unfortunately, investment scams and charity schemes occur frequently in the aftermath of natural disasters. Numerous individuals faced enforcement actions by the SEC following Hurricane Katrina for fraudulent activities, including stock inflation and fictional business deals. Based on these previous scams, the SEC now encourages investors to watch for trading cons promising quick, big wins and schemes where early investors receive payment from money acquired through new investor funds.
Other common disaster-related scams include fraudulent charities and phishing schemes aimed at obtaining personal and banking information. In addition, hackers and identity thieves utilize natural disasters to create links to inauthentic videos and photographs, which require software downloads used to obtain personal information. Sadly, the victims of natural disasters are not safe from scammers, as unaccredited contractors or clean-up agencies frequently con those most impacted by disasters by receiving funds to repair property damage they never intend to complete.
In times of crisis, genuine organizations heed the call to action and so do scammers. The following tips may assist investors and consumers in avoiding fraudulent disaster-related scams:
- Do not respond to unsolicited emails or text messages.
- Avoid unknown links from emails or social media posts.
- Show caution when approached by individuals soliciting for money donations via email. Most authentic relief organizations do not send spam emails.
- Only open attachments from known senders and avoid attachments claiming to provide disaster photographs or videos. Such files may contain viruses.
- Only contribute directly to established organizations and do not rely on third-party agencies to make contributions on your behalf.
- Research all organizations through online searches. Access the aid organization or charity website directly to assess its validity.
- Do not provide any personal or financial information to any individual or agency soliciting funds. You may compromise your identity and become vulnerable to theft by providing these details online.
- Review the domain name. Most websites for legitimate organizations end in .com or .org.
- Investigate all contractors and clean-up crews to ensure accreditation.
- Avoid financial opportunities promising large and fast returns. Assess all investment opportunities using thorough company research.
- For more useful information on charity scams, visit the FTC’s website.
Compassion in times of need is great, as long as we are being compassionate to those in need. Scammers don’t deserve your generosity.