The Department of Justice (DOJ) is warning people to be on high alert for fraud as recovery efforts continue in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
The DOJ’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) issued a notice reminder on Friday that “as with any major disaster, there are unscrupulous thieves who seek to take advantage of the environment to line their own pockets.”
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Gathe Jr., who serves as the Executive Director of the NCDF, called fraudsters targeting hurricane-impacted individuals “despicable and an inexcusable crime.”
“We are still in hurricane season, and it is important for people to be on the lookout for fraudsters who seek to profit from natural disasters through identity theft schemes and solicitations for fake charities,” he said, noting that citizens of Florida, South Carolina and other states impacted by Ian should be especially careful.
The DOJ said there was “no indication” that criminals will slow down their efforts to commit fraud on victims of Hurricane Ian.
Such examples of fraud include fake charities soliciting donations using the names of well-known charities or appearing reasonable as related to a disaster.
Nefarious actors might also impersonate government officials and insurance company representatives advising that disaster assistance will be made available should the potential victim provide a sum of money or personal identifiers such as date of birth, social security number, and bank account information, the DOJ said.
Individuals may also try to get victims to invest in non-existent businesses and ventures offering hurricane recovery efforts. Others may try to price-gouge goods and services needed by disaster victims.
Ian, a strong Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, was blamed for more than 100 deaths, the overwhelming majority of them in southwest Florida. It was the third-deadliest storm to hit the U.S. mainland this century behind Hurricane Katrina, which left about 1,400 people dead, and Hurricane Sandy, which had a total death count of 233 despite weakening to a tropical storm just before it made landfall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.