Virginia Attorney General: Beware of scammers posing as disaster relief officials

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is warning Virginians of scammers who are posing as disaster relief officials during Hurricane Florence, according to CBS 6. 

Herring says the scammers have targeted the Hampton Roads region and are calling for personal information under the guise of reimbursement for evacuation expenses.

“It is a shame that there are people out there who take advantage of a natural disaster and try to scam victims,” said Attorney General Herring.

In this case, the scammers claim to be with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) or FEMA. The scammers goal is to use victim’s personal information, so it can be used to commit fraud and identity theft.

Herring said disaster officials will not call residents and ask for personal information.

“Folks have begun to return home now that the Governor has lifted the evacuation order, making them potential targets for scammers offering to reimburse them for evacuation expenses,” said Herring. “This is why it is so important that all Virginians know the signs of a scam and never give their personal information to someone they do not know. If something seems fishy that means it probably is.”

Herring is also reminding residents they should never let a “disaster official” or “disaster worker” into their home without first asking for the person’s identification and investigating it.

Attorney General 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 Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section: http://www.ag.virginia.gov or call 1-800-552-9963 in Virginia or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area. You can also contact VDEM at http://www.vaemergency.gov, (804) 897-6500, or pio@vdem.virginia.gov.