Whenever there is a natural disaster, there is a criminal waiting for the opportunity to cash in. The FBI yesterday announced that an existing fraud tip line is now accepting information from the public about suspected fraud associated with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
As seen with Hurricane Katrina and the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, criminals have made a lucrative business out of scamming unsuspecting Americans. This time around, the FBI warns that individuals may claim to be raising money for environmental causes or offer fraudulent services pertaining to the oil spill. Others may submit false insurance claims for property damage. Solicitations can originate from emails, websites, door-to-door collections, flyers, mailings, phone calls and other similar methods.
Before making a donation of any kind or entering into an agreement to obtain services, consumers should be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of environmental organizations or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites. The FBI also urges the public to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, and to make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
Tips of fraudulent activity should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, 866-720-5721, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 225-334-4707. Consumers can also report suspicious email solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.