At least 24 people lost their lives while another 23,000 remain without power after a series of tornados ripped through Nashville, Tennessee, and the surrounding areas last weekend. People all over the nation have rallied together to help those severely impacted by the worst natural disaster the state has seen in over a decade.
While Cookeville Regional Medical Center, located an hour south of Nashville, has decided not to bill tornado victims that seek medical attention at their facility, others have set up GoFundMe crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for those who have lost everything.
Although natural disasters and charity drives can certainly bring out the best in humanity, scammers and con artists are always lurking close by, waiting to exploit those willing to help. Continue reading to discover how scammers take advantage of vulnerable people and what you can do to avoid getting duped.
Fake GoFundMe Accounts Activated
According to Fox 13 News in Memphis, “Within hours of the disaster, non-verified ‘GoFundMe Accounts’ were posted on the website.” The Tennessee Attorney General’s office released a statement Tuesday encouraging residents to make sure they verify whether a business or charity has a license to collect charitable donations.
For example, on February 19, an AMBER alert was issued in Tennessee for a missing 15-month-old child. Immediately following the announcement, a GoFundMe page was created online to raise money for the search efforts. However, it was activated by a scammer looking to steal money from those wanting to help.
Federal ‘Do Not Call List’ Exemption
Do not assume that because your phone number is placed on a “Do Not Call List” that you are safe from scammers trying to steal your money. Charities are not subject to the “Do Not Call List” and can easily contact you to ask if you want to contribute to a particular cause. Because of this, it’s difficult to determine whether a charity is legitimate.
Scammers will often contact you via e-mail or text message asking for donations. They will include a link that will take you to an unsecured website where they will access your personal information or download malware onto your computer or device. Scammers are aware of up-to-date security protocols put in place by agencies to protect the public from being taken advantage of.
How to Avoid Scams Related to Natural Disasters
The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance released a brochure last year that details how you can avoid scams related to natural disasters. Those looking to aid victims of the tornados in Tennessee aren’t the only targets, though. Scammers are also looking for ways to exploit those directly affected by posing as insurance agencies.
Look for the following red flags:
- “Upfront fees to help you claim services, benefits, or get loans. No government agency charges application fees.”
- “Con artists posing as government employees, insurance adjusters, law enforcement officials, or bank employees. Confirm credentials by calling the agencies if necessary.”
- “Organizations with names similar to government agencies or charities.”
- “Limited time offers. Don’t be pressured to make a decision on the spot or to sign anything without having enough time to review it.”
- “Fake rental listings. If the offer sounds too good to be true or the property owner can’t show you the property beforehand, it’s a bad sign.”
Looking to Donate?
If you are looking to donate to those affected by the tornados in Tennessee, do so directly by using the information below: