AARP Eye Center
Fake charities, FEMA impostors and shady contractors are among the scams to watch out for after a disaster says Kathy Stokes, Director of Fraud Prevention Programs at AARP.
“We always see storm chasers who seek to take advantage in the aftermath of disasters,” Stokes said. “They may impersonate government agencies, offer rebuilding services but they aren’t real contractors, or they steal money by claiming to be a related charity.”
Stokes, who heads up the AARP Fraud Watch Network, came to Hawai`i for free Scam Jam workshops. The workshop on Oahu was broadcast on Facebook Live and can be seen on the AARP Hawai`i Facebook page.
Stokes' presentation can be seen here:
In addition, Kate Kleinert, a romance scam survivor-turned-fraud-warrior, shared how she has turned her heart wrenching experience into a mission to educate others.
After a disaster, Stokes says charity fraud is rampant. “We all have a desire to help people and communities affected by natural disasters,” she explained. “And criminals take advantage of that.” She cautions to support charities you know and trust, and to do your research before donating at sites like charitynavigator.org and give.org.
“Impostors that pretend to be from FEMA, insurance companies and relief agencies also flock to areas following a disaster,” Stokes explains. FEMA and other agencies do not charge fees for their help. Stokes also warns survivors trying to rebuild to be wary of shady contractors that try to force quick decisions before you can check them out.
“You don’t want to react to unsolicited contractor offers,” Stokes said. “Pro-actively seek out bids from multiple contractors.”