Residents in areas impacted by Hurricane Matthew are encouraged to be mindful of possible scams during the recovery period.
While thousands of disaster relief workers will flood the state from all over the country, it’s possible scammers could pose as helpers.
According to the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, when relief workers come to give a helping hand, people affected by Hurricane Matthew should:
• Ask for proper identification of service providers.
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• Legitimate service providers will not ask for personal information such as the name of your bank, social security numbers or any other identifying information.
• If you feel unsafe when individuals come upon your property, call 911 for local law enforcement assistance.
Other tips from the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs on how to safeguard from fraud during recovery include:
Seek out a charity that needs your support. Be cautious of groups that approach you. Get more information on a particular charity by visiting the SC Secretary of State’s Office at www.sos.sc.gov to search on a particular charity or by calling 1-888-CHARITI (242-7484).
Donate to well-known charities. Watch out for charities that have sprung up overnight. They may mean well, but lack the infrastructure to provide assistance. Do not assume a charity is legitimate based on its name. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
Know where the money is going. Ask what percentage of your contribution goes to the charitable cause. Find out their mission and history. Do not be afraid to ask for details in writing.
Do not give or send cash. For security and tax-record purposes, contribute by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check.
Protect yourself from fraudulent contractors:
Do your research. If someone shows up at your door offering contractor services, be wary. Get references from your friends, neighbors or co-workers, as well as multiple bids on the cost of the project.
Verify information. Check the contractor’s ID with full name, business location and phone number, and ask to see the vendor’s business license/permit from the state, county and/or city.
Do not pay in full up front. Never pay more than half of the cost of repairs up front. Also, consider paying with a credit card or check made out to the business rather than cash.
Keep the following tips in mind when fielding emails, texts, and phone calls:
Be wary of emails, texts and pop-ups you did not solicit. Do not reply to requests asking for personal or financial information, click on or paste links into your browser. Do not call a phone number contained in the message.
Follow up. Verify the validity of the communication by contacting the organization directly, with contact information that you have found in the phone book or by going to the company’s website.
Use antivirus or anti-spyware software and a firewall. Make sure to update them regularly. Phishing emails may contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the internet.
Any residents with questions about ongoing Hurricane Matthew response and recovery actions can call the toll-free South Carolina Public Information Phone System 1-866-246-0133.