Regulators Warn Against Fraud in the Wake of Hurricane Michael
CONSUMERS & INVESTORS SHOULD TAKE PRECAUTIONS IN HELPING VICTIMS
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and other federal regulators have all issued warnings with respect to making donations to victims of Hurricane Michael. The third most severe hurricane to hit the Atlantic Coast in US history, Michael left 36 fatalities and considerable damage to properties in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. Consumers and investors should be cautioned that scammers target their victims through phone calls, emails, texts and social media links referencing investment or charitable opportunities that exploit a variety of hurricane-related activities. Unsolicited communications regarding events like clean-up, rebuilding, victim assistance, or contracts with government agencies purporting to be focused on restoration in hurricane affected areas should be scrutinized. Scammers sometimes use names of legitimate charities, like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, to pursue their schemes. If consumers are considering contributing to victims, they should research the organization and its contact information thoroughly, using the Better Business Bureau and/or Charity Navigator. Potential investors can utilize the FINRA BrokerCheck®; to look into the record of their investment professional and firm. If consumers believe that they have donated to a sham charity, they should report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
To learn more, go to ftc.gov/charity. Finally, if individuals suspect fraud related to Hurricane Michael has occurred, they can contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline (24 hours) at 866-720-5721.