State officials warn about scams following Hurricane Ian

Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Hurricane Ian has left a path of destruction across Florida. The storm has left many with little to nothing and they will have to rebuild their homes from the ground up.

Also, many are wanting to donate to help out with disaster relief but you have to make sure that if you make a donation it is to a legitimate organization that is not a scam.

“The best thing to do is the First Lady Casey DeSantis we have all been advocating to give to the It has raised millions of dollars so far. This is a way at least that the state of Florida will ensure those dollars help Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian,” Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, said.

There are other organizations you can donate to as well like the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross, or local fundraisers that are being held in your community.

Patronis is warning the public not to use GoFundMe unless they personally know the person running the campaign.

“When we were down at the Surfside building collapse, we had GoFundMe popping up all these fraud accounts. These people would say ‘Oh I lost my dog can you help me raise money,’ and people would give thousands of dollars to somebody they never even knew cause it was a large emotionally impacted issue and they would tie a personal attachment to it,” Patronis said. “People would share it virally and there is money to be donated. So when we attacked GoFundMe on this, they admitted there were 70 fake accounts that they identified. That just questions how many did they not identify. So this is why I am super laser-focused on not allowing this to happen with the Ian hurricane disaster. I just ask people don’t give money through GoFundMe unless you know who the beneficiary is.”

The Federal Trade Commission provides tips on how you can avoid scammers if you are trying to donate.

For example, the FTC said don’t let people rush you into donating, and always keep a record of all the donations you make. For more tips click here.

Other scams to watch out for include fake contractors.

“The predators come in hours after the disaster,” Patronis said. “So we have already heard of canvassing in the neighborhoods of unscrupulous contractors who are playing games in order to get you repairs done on your house, but then they will end up controlling your insurance claims. So I don’t know about you but I don’t like giving a stranger I don’t know a blank check by my insurance company.”

Another thing to look out for is people claiming to work for FEMA.

“There is not a FEMA reaching out to you asking you to engage them. FEMA has the individual assistance program in place, that is exactly what they use with Hurricane Michael. People get living expense money. But you go and you log in and you create an account. You approve your need and then FEMA makes those dollars available to you. FEMA will not come to you and track you down. You have to go to FEMA,” Patronis said.

Whether you are making a donation or you are rebuilding after a natural disaster, always make sure you are giving your money to the right person.