Tips to Avoid Disaster Scams | Camp Fire

Following natural disasters, there is always an increase in scams, mainly targeting two groups: those that were impacted by the disaster and those that want to help. Here are some tips on what to be on alert for:

Be aware of fraud. As a result of California’s ongoing fires, many people may wish to seek legal advice for various reasons, including insurance disputes, landlord tenant disputes, consumer fraud and more. Please be aware that there are people who will try to commit fraud. Disaster survivors facing legal issues in Butte County who are unable to afford a lawyer may call the hotline at 800-345-9491. Before hiring an attorney, Californians should check the State Bar website for the status of an attorney's license to practice law and whether they have any record of discipline.

Identity theft. Scammers take advantage of those awaiting relief from government agencies and organizations by posing as an official of these groups. Calling or even stopping by in person, they ask for personal and financial information like full name and SSN.

  • Never give out your Social Security number over the phone unless you initiated the call
  • There are no fees to apply for FEMA or SBA assistance or to receive government-sponsored property damage inspections; any request to pay fees is fraudulent

Repair and debris removal services. Often called "storm chasers", scammers descend on hard hit areas in need of rebuilding and restoration. Many ask for cash to put a homeowner's name at the top of their waiting list. Others request a large deposit for the promise of repairs that they don't have the skills, insurance, or resources to complete. After working their way through town, they take the money and run.

  • Don't fall for "one-day-only" discounts to hire someone on the spot, do your research and find the right contractor for the job
  • Always ask contractors for references and call their previous clients
  • Never pay in full today for the promise of services later, and avoid using cash

House/apartment rentals.Scammers ask for up-front non-refundable application fees or deposits, or personal information (like SSN) before even seeing the house. Warning signs include insistence that you send money or personal information in advance before viewing the property.

  • Never hand over money or provide personal/financial information (like SSN) until you see the property and sign a lease
  • Beware of price gouging. California prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10% after an emergency has been declared. For information on what you can do if you feel you have a claim, visit https://www.oag.ca.gov/consumers/pricegougingduringdisasters

Charity giving. During past disasters, there have been scammers posing as the American Red Cross and other organizations. Follow these guidelines to ensure your money goes to legitimate organizations.

  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.  Check out the charity by verifying it with the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, (www.give.org)
  • Don't assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate, research the organization yourself
  • Never send cash; you can't be sure those affected by the disaster will receive your donation

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    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

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    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

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