Monday, August 28, 2017

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, be alert for relief scams

Gulf of Mexico radar image August 24, credit NOAA

Update 30 August 2017: the Federal Trade Commission is reporting scam robocalls telling victims their flood insurance premiums are past due, and demanding immediate payment in order for their Hurricane Harvey damages to be covered. Don’t do it. Instead, contact your insurance agent.

Update 11 September 2017: everything said of Hurricane Harvey in Texas is equally true of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Georgia.

This is a blog post I do not enjoy updating after each major natural disaster, but alas where there is disaster, there are lowlifes looking to profit from it.

August 25, Hurricane Harvey hit the middle Texas Coast as a major hurricane, packing sustained 130 mph winds. It then camped out in southeast Texas, dropping heretofore unheard of amounts of rain along a path from east of Austin, to the Houston metro area. 

Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma trashed the Caribbean before running up the west coast of Florida, again bringing widespread wind damage and flooding to much of that state and its neighbors.

As appalling as it is, major internationally-publicized disasters such as this invariably are followed by "cyber opportunists," criminals who take advantage of the publicity for their own nefarious gain. Two common methods are fraudulent requests for assistance, and malware-laden websites using search engine optimization to appear high in search results for news on the events of the day.