This week, the US Cyber Defense Agency (CISA) is warning consumers about cyberscams leveraging extreme weather phenomena and natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires, which may target both disaster victims and worried consumers.
Natural disasters and weather emergencies can leave many victims and destruction, and volunteers or charitable individuals who want to lend people a hand are strongly urged to use caution when dealing with disaster-related correspondence.
Threat actors are known to pose as representatives of trustworthy disaster-relief charities to steal personal information from unwary individuals, and may send social media messages or texts related to severe weather events, emails, and malicious websites to lure you into handing over money and data.
Here’s how to protect your personal information and finances against scammers who exploit the aftermath of natural disasters, regardless of where they happen:
· If you are a victim of extreme weather and lose your home or suffer any damage to your property, be wary of clean-up and repair scams that may involve unlicensed contractors or fraudsters who demand upfront payment for quick repairs without doing any of the promised work.
· Exercise caution when looking for a rental home, apartment or other accommodation following a natural disaster. Scammers often set up phony listings on well-known rental platforms and lure unwary or desperate individuals with too-good-to-be-true deals. Avoid paying security deposits or wiring money before you’ve met the individual or business you are renting from or signing a lease.
· Watch out for impostors pretending to be government employees, safety inspectors or utility workers who try to bully you into providing your SSN, bank account number or credit card.
· Remain vigilant against charity scammers who benefit from the misfortune of others. If you want to help victims, use legitimate platforms and organizations only. Scrutinize all unsolicited communications related to disasters and charities before making any donations. Be especially wary of requests to donate in crypto, gift cards and wire transfers.
The FTC also has a handy consumer advice page for dealing with weather emergencies which can be found here.
Stay safe everyone!