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How do I avoid scams and fraud after a disaster?

To avoid scams ask questions, verify the identity of anyone trying to sell you something or asking for money, and make sure written contracts match the verbal promises that were made.

Scammers often try to take advantage of you during a crisis—when you may be vulnerable and looking for help, particularly when you don’t have phone or Internet service to do research. Be on the lookout for scams by fake government employees, bogus charities, dishonest contractors, and others trying to take advantage of your situation. Recognizing the tricks that scammers use can help you spot scams more easily.

How to spot scammers

Ask questions

Be alert to warning signs: If the person trying to sell you a product or service can’t or won’t answer your questions, or if the paperwork doesn’t match the promises made to you, these are warning signs.

Example questions:

  • Can I see your identification and contractor’s license?
  • Can you provide three recent recommendations from the area?
  • How long have you been in business?

Confirm identities

Con artists may pose as government employees, insurance adjusters, law enforcement officials, bank employees, or whoever it takes to get to your money. Scammers can easily fake titles and uniforms.

  • Always ask for identification, and call the organization the person claims to work for to confirm that the person does work there.
  • Never give personal information to anyone you don’t know.
  • Remember that government employees will not generally ask you for payment or financial information such as your bank account number.

How to avoid scams after a disaster

Don’t make a decision under pressure

After a disaster, contractors and others may arrive at your door offering to help with home repair, debris removal, and other disaster-related assistance. Beware of contractors going door-to-door and people offering unsolicited “opportunities” or high-pressure tactics to force you to make a snap decision. Take your time, stop, think, and investigate, and never sign anything without fully reading and understanding it first.

Don’t pay too much in times of crisis (price gouging)

During periods of crisis people may offer “limited time only” deals or say the price of materials will rise if you don’t act now. These are also called “scarcity tactics.” Be suspicious of anyone offering to move you to the front of the line. Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, virtual currency, or cash, because it can be harder to get your money back. And wait to or make the final payment until the work is done to your satisfaction.

If you believe you have been a victim of price gouging, contact your state attorney general .

Stay up-to-date on possible scams happening in your area

After major disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) creates “Rumor Control” pages to dispel misinformation and help you protect yourself against scams. Find your local rumor control page on FEMA’s website by searching the name of the disaster you were in and ‘rumors.’ FEMA also has a “Current Disasters” page that lists recent disaster declarations and includes a tool you can use to search by location. Your state attorney general may also have specific information about scams and what to do about them for your state.

Read more information from FEMA about spotting and reporting fraud .

Protect yourself against identity theft

After a disaster you may be asked to give people sensitive information, like your Social Security number. Scammers can see this as an opportunity to steal your identity. Even if you’re careful to avoid scams, you may want to protect your identity, bank account, and credit record. A federal law allows you to freeze and unfreeze your credit record for free at the three nationwide credit reporting companies -Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian- no matter what state you live in. Freezing your credit restricts access to your credit file by potential new creditors. This makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.

You can also put a fraud alert on your credit record for one year and you can renew it at the end of the year. A fraud alert means lenders should call you to verify your identity before extending new credit, like opening up a new credit card, or giving out a loan. If you have been a victim of identity theft, then you can place an extended fraud alert for seven years.

If you’re unsure about any offer you receive, contractor you encounter, or action you’re asked to take, ask a trusted relative, friend, or an attorney for a second opinion before acting.

Watch out for these common disaster scams

Fake charities

After disasters, charitable giving spikes. Scammers may create fake charities to scam people who want to help. Sometimes these scams use names that are similar to organizations you may be familiar with to get you to make a “donation.” Scammers are also using live streaming features on social media platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) generated or altered images to get you to donate, and often request payment by virtual currency so they can get your money quickly. The Federal Trade Commission has more information about donating wisely and avoiding charity scams .

People pretending to be FEMA

All FEMA representatives, including home inspectors, have a laminated photo ID. Don’t trust someone with just a FEMA jacket or shirt and no ID. Call FEMA at (800) 621-3362 if you’re unsure if someone is truly a FEMA representative. No FEMA, federal, or state workers will ask for or accept money. FEMA doesn’t charge for home inspections, disaster assistance, or help filling out applications. If you have any doubt that a person is a legitimate FEMA worker, don’t give them any personal information.

Mortgage repayment/modification scams

After a disaster, scammers may offer homeowners assistance with negotiating or delaying your mortgage payments through foreclosure relief scams. Generally, lenders or mortgage servicers will work with you, the homeowner, after a natural disaster and offer forbearance or other hardship options to help you avoid going into default or ending up in foreclosure. Your options should ALWAYS be discussed directly with your mortgage servicer. Contact your mortgage servicer for payment assistance and never pay a company to negotiate with your servicer on your behalf. If you need help working with your servicer you may want to contact a housing counselor or a lawyer for assistance.


You may receive a recorded call promising government grants, flood insurance, or help with applications for assistance. Don’t respond or provide personal information or payment to these callers. They may be scams trying to get your credit card or checking account information. Go to FEMA’s disaster assistance site for information on what help is really available.

How to/Where to report a scam

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam or fraud related to a natural disaster, the National Center for Disaster Fraud will investigate and prosecute fraud as well as advocate for disaster victims. You can call the Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721.

Also, contact law enforcement, state, and federal agencies for help right away.

For more information, visit the Bureau’s Frauds and scams and Dealing with disasters and emergencies pages.