Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Watch out for scammers posing as disaster officials in Hampton Roads

Attorney General Mark R. Herring is warning Virginians, particularly those who live in the Hampton Roads region, of scammers who are posing as disaster relief officials.

These scammers are calling for personal information under the guise of reimbursement for evacuation expenses, according to a news release from the AG’s office.

This comes after Gov. Ralph Northam lifted the mandatory evacuation order, which means that Virginians are returning to their homes and could be more susceptible to scams like this one.

The Attorney General advises if you receive a call from someone claiming to be a disaster official and they ask for your personal information, it is a scam and you should hang up the phone.

“It is a shame that there are people out there who take advantage of a natural disaster and try to scam victims,” Herring said. “If something seems fishy that means it probably is.”

According to the news release, phishing scams typically involve scammers posing as legitimate organizations, in this case either the Virginia Department of Emergency Management or FEMA, demanding that victims turn over their personal information.

Never let a “disaster official” or “disaster worker” into your home without first asking for identification and checking it out.

Some con artists pose as government officials and claim that a “processing fee” must be paid to secure disaster relief payments or loans.

Other con artists pretend to be safety inspectors and require that expensive or unnecessary repairs be done immediately.

Herring would like you to keep the following scam guidelines in mind:

  • Phishing emails typically contain misspellings and poor grammar, and demand that you “act immediately.”
  • Most legitimate companies do not ask for personal information over email or by unsolicited phone call. Should you have a question about your status or account with an institution, call the company directly from a number off their real website.
  • Do not click on links in suspected emails or use numbers contained in them.
  • Never reply to a suspicious email or provide personal information to an unsolicited phone call.
  • Report the email to the purported institution or appropriate law enforcement agency.
  • Use strong passwords for your email, computer, and financial accounts, including variations of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols of at least 8 characters.
  • Install anti-virus programs on your computer and scan files and emails regularly.
  • Check for regular updates to your operating system.
  • Install and activate a software and hardware firewall on your computer.
  • Backup all of your data regularly using an external hard drive.

If you feel you have been a victim of one of these phishing scams, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section: www.ag.virginia.gov or call 800-552-9963 in Virginia — 804-786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area.

You can also contact VDEM at www.vaemergency.gov, 804-897-6500, or pio@vdem.virginia.gov.

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