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Officials warn scams are following Hurricane Ian

WASHINGTON — Scammers try to cash in on other people’s devastation after every natural disaster. Officials are warning the public scams are already following Hurricane Ian.

It’s the worst kind of scheme that preys on those who are already suffering.

“Scammers love playing on the emotions of their victims and after a natural disaster. There are a lot of emotions going on,” Bryan Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau of West Florida said.

It covers some of the areas that Hurricane Ian hit hardest.

“It’s been real busy,” he described. “We have a lot of consumers calling us, asking questions.”

In the aftermath, Oglesby often sees what he calls “storm chasers.” They are the so-called contractors who swoop in, say they’ll fix your home, take your money and leave before doing any work.

“This is a time for a consumer to really search out and look for legitimate, trustworthy contractors,” he advised. “They shouldn’t feel pressure to just hire someone on the spot. Just because someone claims they have a license; they need to verify it.”

You should never pay up front or in cash.

“Scammers are opportunists,” Colleen Tressler with the Federal Trade Commission said.

The agency is also warning those who aren’t directly impacted by the storm.

“They feel a little helpless so they think, ‘I can donate,’ but the problem there is that scammers often set up charities that look and sound like real ones, again, to get your money,” Tressler explained.

As always, she said, you can’t believe everything you see on social media.

“Just because somebody shares something with you, don’t assume it’s legitimate,” Tressler added. “You know, friends may be well-intentioned when they pass something along but it’s really up to you to do your due diligence.”

If you spot a scam or become a victim of a scam, the FTC wants to hear from you. You can report the fraud using its online tool. That information gets passed along to investigators.

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