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Hurricane charity scams: 3 tips to avoid becoming a victim

These three tips can help you avoid falling victim to a scam while trying to help those impacted by Hurricane Ian.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings in effect across the Carolinas, people everywhere in North Carolina and South Carolina are getting ready for the impacts of Hurricane Ian

Unfortunately, this is also the time scammers will try to take advantage of folks simply trying to ride out the storm. It's important that you take steps to protect your hard-earned money because criminals will be looking to take it from you. 

Friday is a Weather Aware Day. Any time a person sees the Weather Aware label on the forecast or on social media, they know it's about their personal safety, their family's safety and protecting their property. 

Beyond the typical severe weather, there are dangerous heat waves, record-breaking cold snaps or even hazardous winds that could impact people's safety. Those instances would cause WCNC Charlotte's Weather Team to tell everyone they should be Weather Aware.

Here are three things you can do to avoid becoming the victim of a hurricane scam. 

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1. Watch for imposters

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs says these criminals will often come to disaster sites and pose as government workers. Experts say if you're skeptical, don't be afraid to cut off contact and just call the agency yourself. 

2. Do your research 

Many people want to help, and that's great, but you can't always assume every charity is legitimate. Experts say be suspicious os groups that are especially pushy about donations. 

If you aren't sure about an organization soliciting donations, you should e able to look up whether it's registered. There are several watchdogs, including the Better Business Bureau, that rate these organizations. You can also check with your state's charity regulator before donating

Experts say you should be skeptical if a charity just started within the past week or so, ahead of the storm. 

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

3. Checks and credit cards are key

It might sound old-fashioned, but experts say writing a check provides you with physical proof of the transaction. Credit cards, though, offer an extra layer of protection. 

Whatever you do, do not donate by gift card, cryptocurrency or wire transfers. 

If you do think you've fallen victim to a scam, experts say to please report it immediately. State officials will investigate all reports and can use that information to potentially warn others so they don't fall victim. 

Click here to report a scam in North Carolina.
Click here to report a scam in South Carolina

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Tips to avoid becoming a victim of a scam

  • Emotional appeal Any pitch that ratchets up your emotion will inhibit your rational judgment.  

  • Sense of urgencyYou MUST act now, or else.  

  • Request for unorthodox payment - Gift cards, prepaid credit cards, wire transfers, etc.  

  • Explanations that don't ring true - If your new “landlord” can’t show you the inside of the house, that could be because they don’t own it.  

  • You won, now pay up - It’s not a prize if you have to pay for it. Taxes, fees, shipping, whatever.  

  • Too good to be true - That’s because it’s not true. Sorry, your long-lost relative didn’t die, leaving you millions. That car you bought online for a third of its Kelly Blue Book value doesn’t really exist. The son of a billionaire diamond broker didn’t “swipe right” on you and fall instantly in love. That work-at-home job paying you hundreds of dollars an hour for stuffing envelopes isn’t real.


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