Disaster Scams: State officials say watch out for scammers this hurricane season

Photo provided by staff.

POSTED: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 3:33pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 4:00pm

Hurricane season is here, but it's also the season for scammers.

The Department of Justice gets a lot of identity theft and scam complaints around this time of year, but there are some things you can do to make sure it doesn't happen to you.

All the preparations and all the planning, but a lot of times, people don't plan to be scammed.

Amanda Larkins works for the Louisiana Attorney General's Office. As an official and someone from Louisiana, she said she has seen it all when it comes to scams, but the most popular one is identity theft especially after a disaster happens.

"Any personal document that you would normally safe guard at home, bring those with you in case of an evacuation so that you know that they are safe," Larkins suggested.

Larkins also said you need to watch out for people posing as government or emergency response officials.

"Scammers may pray on people who may need help," Larkins explained. "So just verify everything, make sure that you verify their identity, get it in writing, don't give any cash, and make sure you know who you're dealing with."

Larkins said even those who try to give back can turn into the victim.

"Louisiana citizens are generous people, and we do like to give to our favorite charities," Larkins said. "so verify the charity, ask around, get as much information as possible, make sure that if you write a check out you write the check out to the charity itself, and not to an individual, never pay cash."

If you're the one picking up the pieces, make sure whoever helps you clean up is legit.

"Have a contract, make sure you know who you're dealing with, also never pay more than a down-payment of about 10% of the cost of the entire project," Larkins suggested.

Larkins said, even if a hurricane doesn't come our way this year, it's always important to be prepared.

"That's why we issue tips and advisories because we want consumers to be safe and to have this very important information," Larkins said.

If you get scammed this hurricane season, you can call the office's Consumer Protection Hotline. The number is 1-800-351-4889 or go to www.agbuddycaldwell.com.

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