Hurricane Michael brought its punishing winds and storm surges before drenching the Panhandle of Florida and driving its way through Alabama and Georgia last week. Members of my own family were affected in Houston County and were without power for days. Even one of our own former Bond & Botes family members, Sara is in the heart of the disaster in Panama City dealing with the devastating damage to her hometown. We have much to be thankful for as they are all safe.
How to Make Sure You Don’t Get Scammed
The clean-up from the damage will take months to years. The good in communities seems to rise out of such disasters who donate their time, skills and money. But that outpouring of generosity can also draw scammers looking to profit off good intentions. Here are some ways to stop scams and avoid them:
1. Research the Charity Beforehand
If you’re going to donate, research the charity beforehand. The Better Business Bureau suggests using give.org to vet the charity to make sure your dollars go where the charity says they are going. You should avoid any charity that refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, and how the donation will be used. They should provide you with proof that the contribution is tax deductible. Be wary if it uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
2. Be Wary of Organizations Asking for Money Immediately
Be wary of any organization that asks you for money “RIGHT NOW”. You should put your guard up if the requests are aggressive and urgent. Senior citizens fall victim to these types of requests most often according to the Better Business Bureau. Be wary if donations are asked of you to wire money or pay in cash.
3. Research Contractors Before Hiring Them
If your home has been damaged, research the contractors before hiring them for repairs or cleanup.
“After natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, unlicensed contractors and scammers often come into the affected area promising immediate clean-up and debris removal. Some demand payment up-front for work they never do. Others simply lack the skills, licenses, and insurance to legally do the work,” the Federal Trade Commission wrote.
To protect yourself, the agency recommends asking to see licenses if the area requires them, taking down names, license plate numbers or any other identifying information, asking for references, getting an estimate and an official contract. Above all, “trust your gut,” the agency wrote.
4. Be Wary of Crowdfunding Campaigns
Be wary of crowdfunding campaigns. Sites like GoFundMe allow individuals to set up their own fundraising pages to raise money for hospital bills, supplies, repairs, or any other costs. But scammers sometimes post fraudulent campaigns on the site. The site urged users to investigate campaigns by checking who was running them, if family and friends were active, commenting or donating, and if the reason for the fundraiser was clear.
Contact a Trusted Bankruptcy Attorney Today
We continue to pray for those in Hurricane Michael’s path. If you need help with your finances after a natural disaster, please feel free to contact one of Bond & Botes offices for a free consultation.
Gail Hughes Donaldson is a Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She’s been helping families work through the bankruptcy process since she started with Bond & Botes back in 1993 as a paralegal. Read her full bio here.