Beware of post-storm scams
Attorney General Mark R. Herring is warning Virginians, particularly those who live in the Hampton Roads region, of scammers who are posing as disaster relief officials calling for personal information under the guise of reimbursement for evacuation expenses, according to a Friday press release.
After Gov. Ralph Northam lifted the mandatory evacuation order, Virginians returning to their homes could be more susceptible to scams like this one. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a disaster official and they ask for your personal information, it is a scam and you should hang up the phone.
“It is a shame that there are people out there who take advantage of a natural disaster and try to scam victims,” said Herring. “Folks have begun to return home now that the Governor has lifted the evacuation order, making them potential targets for scammers offering to reimburse them for evacuation expenses. This is why it is so important that all Virginians know the signs of a scam and never give their personal information to someone they do not know. If something seems fishy, that means it probably is.”
Phishing scams typically involve scammers posing as legitimate organizations, in this case either the Virginia Department of Emergency Management or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, demanding that victims turn over their personal information so it can be used to commit fraud and identity theft. Never let a “disaster official” or “disaster worker” into your home without first asking for the person’s identification and checking it out.
Some con artists pose as government officials and claim that a “processing fee” must be paid to secure disaster relief payments or loans. Other con artists pretend to be safety inspectors and require that expensive or unnecessary repairs be done immediately.
Citizens should keep the following scam guidelines in mind:
Phishing emails typically contain misspellings and poor grammar and demand that you “act immediately.”
Most legitimate companies do not ask for personal information over email or by unsolicited phone call. Should you have a question about your status or account with an institution, call the company directly at a number off their real website.
Do not click on links in suspected emails or use numbers contained in them.
Never reply to a suspicious email or provide personal information to an unsolicited phone call.
Report the email to the purported institution or appropriate law enforcement agency.
Use strong passwords for your email, computer and financial accounts, including variations of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols of at least eight characters.
Install anti-virus programs on your computer and scan files and emails regularly.
Check for regular updates to your operating system.
Install and activate a software and hardware firewall on your computer.
Backup all of your data regularly using an external hard drive.
If you feel you have been a victim of one of these phishing scams, contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section at www.ag.virginia.gov or call 1-800-552-9963 in Virginia or 804-786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area. You can also contact VDEM at www.vaemergencygov, 804-897-6500, or firstname.lastname@example.org.