Severe Weather Scams

Severe weather events and natural disasters can bring out the best in some people, and it also brings out the worst in cybercriminals. Dramatic weather events find scammers making use of phone, text, email, and even social media posts to entice good-hearted people into donating money that will only line the scammer’s pockets. 

Here are some things to be aware of after severe weather or natural disasters to avoid being scammed. 

  • Well-known charities: People eager to help those in need may not realize how trivially easy it is for a scammer to create a fake charity, complete with logos and photographs. The best way for a person to donate funds to ensure their money goes to people in need to contribute to established, well-known charities.  If you decide to donate to a smaller charity, be sure to check the Better Business Bureau’s website to see if there are current, open complaints – 
  • Social Media Posts: After severe weather, many people take to social media to post a status or check on loved ones. Scammers will take to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to solicit donations. Social media has become so much of our daily lives, and it is easy to assume the post encouraging donations via PayPal or a GoFundMe page are legitimate. But, it is crucial to realize that social media platforms do not always vet such posts, which can take advantage of generous people. 
  • Check the number: Most everyone has a cell phone, and scammers use the device’s ubiquity to snare donations. If a charity contacts you for a donation, it is better to hang up, confirm the charity’s phone number through an official channel, and then call back.  It is vital to realize phone scammers can easily hide their number or configure caller ID to indicate the Red Cross or another organization. 
  • Email Donations: Email is another vector scammers use. If an email from a charity ends up in your mailbox, do not click or donate through any of the message’s links. Go directly to the charity’s home page and use the donation options provided there. Using this option helps to ensure the donation will genuinely find its way to those who need it most.