Be Prepared Against Fraud and Disaster Scams

In the wake of a disaster, survivors must remain vigilant against potential scams and fraudulent activities that could further exacerbate their hardships. Con artists, identity thieves, and other criminals often exploit vulnerable communities, posing as legitimate aid workers or contractors. These scams can take various forms, including phony housing inspections, fraudulent building contractors, and fake pleas for disaster donations. Survivors should be aware of common tactics fraudsters use and take proactive measures to safeguard their interests.

Key tips to protect yourself from post-disaster scams

  • Beware of unusual payment requests: Do not wire money or pay with reloadable debit cards or gift cards, as legitimate organizations do not request these forms of payment.
  • Guard personal financial information: Do not share sensitive personal or financial information through phone calls, texts, or other mediums.
  • Exercise caution and skepticism: If an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is. Ask questions, seek clarification, and scrutinize any unfamiliar offers or proposals.
  • Request written agreements: Insist on getting contracts in writing, ensuring they detail all work to be performed, costs, completion dates, and procedures for addressing disputes or changes.
  • Protect against identity theft: Put fraud alerts on your credit record and consider freezing your credit to make it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts using your information.
  • Research contractors:
    • Obtain estimates from multiple contractors.
    • Verify their credentials.
    • Check references from past customers.
    • Utilize resources like the Better Business Bureau and online search engines.


REMEMBER: Special laws apply if a contractor from another area is working because of damage or destruction to property caused by a disaster. These emergency remediation contractors, with some exceptions, are NOT allowed to require payment before beginning work or even after work has begun if it exceeds an amount proportionate to the work performed.

Be especially suspicious of door-to-door salespeople who make "low-ball" estimates or refuse to leave a contract overnight, so you have time to review it.

  • Verify insurance and licensing: Ensure that contractors have appropriate insurance coverage, proper licensing, and necessary permits to carry out the job.
  • Document interactions: Take photographs of contractors, their vehicles, business cards, and licenses for future reference.
  • Watch out for common disaster scams: Stay informed about scams such as fake charities, mortgage repayment scams, and robocalls targeting disaster survivors.

In the wake of a natural emergency, you may want to assist by giving to a charity that helps victims. Make sure your donations go to legitimate organizations.

Most reputable organizations do not directly solicit donations from individual consumers by telephone or door-to-door visits. Do not use links embedded in unsolicited emails to access an organization's website.

The following resources can help you research charities:

  • CharityWatch formerly known as The American Institute of Philanthropy, is a charity watchdog group which helps donors make informed choices.
  • GuideStar gathers data on millions of IRS-recognized non-profits.

In case of suspected fraud or scam attempts, it is essential to report concerns promptly:

  1. Contact local law enforcement agencies to report potential fraud or suspicious activities.

  2. To file a complaint or seek guidance, call 800-621-0508 to the Texas Office of the Attorney General or file a consumer complaint online:
  3. To report fraudulent activities related to disaster relief efforts, use the free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721, available 24/7.

By remaining vigilant, asking questions, and promptly reporting any suspicious behavior, disaster survivors can help safeguard themselves and their communities from falling victim to scams and fraudulent schemes.

Additionally, survivors should avail themselves of legitimate avenues for disaster assistance, such as registering with FEMA through or calling 1-800-621-3362 for aid applications.

Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are available to businesses, homeowners and renters. Call the SBA at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339) or with