Beware of Disaster Scams

We were shocked to learn from the former director of the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud that as soon as the National Weather Service releases storm names for the coming season that people start registering domain names associated with pending storms in order to set up scams. Walt Green, who now practices cybercrime law, goes on to say that these people do the same for any type of disaster, whether it be earthquakes, fires, flooding, or tornadoes.

key west

Key West home

While we in Ohio are not largely affected by the most ravaging hurricane season in recent memory, we remain part of the American framework of business and family. We are or know good-hearted people (many of whom are seniors) who are kind-hearted and more than willing to help fellow Americans suffering in the hardest hit areas of the Florida Keys, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and now Puerto Rico.

These scams come via email, on websites, social media, and even through the mail. As our senior population spends more and more time online, it’s imperative that their adult children and family members warn them of potential scams.

Tips to avoid disaster giving scams

Type the name of the charity or disaster relief group into a browser and go directly to their website. Verify their authenticity at CharityNavigator.org, GuideStart.org, or the BBB’s give.org.

Be wary of email attachments that claim they are links to charitable organizations as these could contain malware or ransomware that will leave a computer inoperable until money is paid for the scammer to fix it.

Check the actual email address of the person sending it. The name that shows may be different that the underlying name. Depending on the email client and computer platform used, the verification process varies, so check a reliable website like online-tech-tips.com to learn how.

The Department of Justice wants to know if you see a scam. They will track them down and work to shut them down. Report even a suspicious attempt at disaster scamming to the Department of Justice to disaster@leo.gov.

We must not let these scammers scare us from providing help to those who need it so badly.

Harvey’s Effect on Small Business

hurricane matthewWatching the effects of Hurricane Harvey on southeast Texas residents has been heartbreaking. The stacks of people’s home furnishings, kids toys, appliances, and carpets stacked alongside endless streets where flooding was deep and destructive is an optic we will not soon forget. And there’s another debris pile we see less frequently…those of the hundreds of small convenience stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, laundromats, flower shops, doctor offices, and insurance agents. All the small businesses that thrive in neighborhoods, employ locals, and serve families. The everyday small business that is the backbone of the American dream.

Even the small businesses that were not flooded are empty. Whole neighborhoods became ghost towns, leaving gas stations empty. And without gas to sell, no customers in the store either. While larger businesses might be able to handle disasters better, since they have more available resources to restore their operation, small businesses depend upon available capital. For many small businesses who exist to support the family, this capital is in short supply. The asset they owned on which to borrow is now of little use. Some may not even be able to reopen.

What we learned from Task Force Katrina after the natural disaster in New Orleans is that 40 percent of small businesses don’t even survive. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has some disaster recovery loans available, but aside from loans the rest is up to the American Spirit. May it be bright!

As we write this blog, our friends on the east coast are facing another hurricane named Irma. May God protect and preserve those small businesses, the people that own and depend on them, and everyone in the path of all natural disasters.