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5 Scams to Avoid After ‘Frankenstorm’

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By Kelly Santos

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is overwhelming: millions without power, dozens of deaths and thousands of canceled flights. Many organizations—government, private and nonprofit — are rushing to reach those in need. Unfortunately, so are scammers who prey on people when they are at their most desperate.

Identity Theft 911 has compiled a list of scams to avoid and a few easy tips to make sure your good name stays intact:

1. Photos with malware. This scam strikes after any type of disaster or tragedy. Thieves count on people to be hungry for news, so they infect images and video with malware. Stick with legitimate sites, such as your local news station or newspaper for the latest information. Be wary of links on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.

2. Fake charitable organizations. Watch out for scammy charitable organizations that have names similar to reputable institutions. These sites often end in .com (instead of the typical .org for nonprofits). They’re designed to fool you into thinking you’re donating to a good cause when, in reality, you’re donating your money and personal and financial information to thieves.

3. Illegitimate websites. Double check the legitimacy of the site you’re clicking to from your email, Facebook or elsewhere. When in doubt, check your local American Red Cross or the National FEMA site to find local help.

4. Insurance scams. If you’ve experienced damage to any of your personal property, call your insurance company first. Don’t fall for fly-by-night “professionals” who make false guarantees about a claims check, damage appraisal, inspection or water quality testing.

5. Identity thieves. Protect important information and documents. Whether you’re in a shelter, staying with friends, or crashing on your family’s couch, never let these items leave your sight. They are the key to your identity — and you will need this information to prove who you are. Another tip: Ask the post office to hold your mail if you have to leave your home. This will keep the bad guys from finding sensitive information that may be left in your mailbox.

You should always take proactive measures to protect your credit and identity. The law allows consumers to pull one credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies — for free — by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Finally, give your bank, credit union, insurer or financial planner a call to see if they offer identity theft management services. Some financial institutions offer this service for free, as a perk for being a member or account holder.

This article originally appeared on Identity Theft 911 Blog.

Image: jaydensonbx, via Flickr

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