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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Natural disasters always attract people who want to help, but they also attract criminals who seek to profit from people’s pain.
As CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported Monday, scams began appearing the minute the Superstorm Sandy flood waters receded.
“Unscrupulous people who come out of the woodwork and try to take advantage of consumers who’ve been affected” have been perpetrating the scams, said consumer expert Kelli Grant of SmartMoney.com.
Grant called the scammers “storm chasers,” and said they usually find their way right to a storm victim’s door.
“They show up at your house, and offer help for what they might see or you might see as an immediate need — getting that tree out of your roof, getting branches off of your car,” Grant said, “and then usually what happens is they take the money and they run.”
Those who suffered through Superstorm Sandy said the scams have made a bad situation worse, to say the least.
“I think those are those opportunists who are going to be there anyway, so this just creates another opportunity for them,” said Rhonda Bell of Newark, N.J.
“It’s scary,” said Linda of Mineola, Long Island. “It’s just really scary.”
Scam artists also want to take advantage of people’s desire to help. Thus, fake charities have been popping up, and price gouging is on the rise for everything from generators to food and batteries.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a warning in response.
“Do not try to gouge New Yorkers,” he said. “There are price gouging laws on the books. The attorney general is investigating and will enforce them.”
To avoid the biggest post-storm scams, experts recommend that when having repair work done, you should use the yellow pages, the Internet, or a referral from a trusted friend to find the right company for you.
You should also make sure they are properly licensed and insured in your state.
Check prices before buying supplies, or purchase from big chain stores, because it’s harder for them to change their prices quickly.
And experts say you should save your big charitable donations for organizations you know or have researched, so criminals don’t get your personal information.
Have you heard about any scams being perpetrated against storm victims? Leave your comments below…