Emergencies like Hurricane Sandy bring out the best — and the worst — in us. Beware of scams, frauds, and rip-offs related to Sandy recovery that can come by email, phone or in person to your doorstep —
Charity frauds —
- Donate to recognized charities such as the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, United Jewish Appeal, and the official government relief funds set up by New Jersey Governor Christie and NYC Mayor Bloomberg.
- Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities may also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.
- As I wrote on Living on the Cheap, you can also check charity rating services to whether a charity is legitimate, and how efficiently a legitimate charity uses your donations.
- Never give personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists may use this information to steal your identity and money.
- Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
- Call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number, 1-866-562-5227, if you are a hurricane victim with specific questions about tax relief or disaster related tax issues.
- As I wrote on Living on the Cheap, check
Home repair scams —
- Anybody claiming to be a FEMA representative will have a government issued ID. Anyone claiming to be FEMA and asking for a payment to register your claim or as a down payment on work is a fraud
- Be sure a contractor has valid liability insurance and workman’s compensation, so you are not victimized again by a ‘staged’ accident on your premises
- Click here to read the full NYCOTC posting on avoiding Hurricane Sandy home repair scams