If you're like me, glued to your screen watching the images come in from Maui, just know you're not alone. Know that scammers are going to pounce on this disaster and try to take advantage of our hearts and desire to help.
Scammers have a proven track record on their side, from Hurricane Katrina to the Haiti earthquake. The key is not over-react and jump to help.
Before I get into the educational part of this email, we have been assembling local resources for residents who have been sending them to us. Be sure to check back on this page for resources as we will continue to update them.
If you are on Maui, change your cell phone's voicemail and use the following script: "My name is (name) and as of (date and time) I am safe at (this location)". You may have many people trying to reach you and the phone and cellular lines may be over-burdened.
The Maui Mutual Aid Fund - helping those affected by wildfires in Maui
American Red Cross shelters are open: Hannibal Tavares Community Center, Lahaina Civic Center, Kihei Community Center. Updates @HawaiiRedCross
If you are Upcountry with your animals and need immediate assistance, call Human Enforcement: (808) 877-3680 ext. 222.
Ulupalakua Ranch has space available if you need to evacuate horses and farm animals: (808) 268-3289
What you're likely to see in the coming weeks
Scammers use phone, text, mail, email, and even go door to door to target communities. Know that officials with government disaster assistance agencies do not call or text asking for financial account information, and that there is no fee required to apply for or get disaster assistance from FEMA or the Small Business Administration. Anyone claiming to be a federal official who asks for money is an imposter.
Phone scams often use number spoofing to impersonate reputable phone numbers (the IRS, Police Dept and even Microsoft), so if someone calls claiming to be a government official, hang up and call the number listed on that government agency's official website. Never reveal any personal information unless you've confirmed you're dealing with a legitimate official, who are required to carry official identification and show it upon request, and they may not ask for or accept money.
Post-disaster insurance scammers will target Maui residents who lost everything
I know, it's despicable, which is why you should know that they are coming. If you get a phone call about an insurance claim or policy, don't give out any personal information or agree to any payment until you can independently verify that the call is legitimate. If the caller says they're from your insurance company, hang up and contact your agent or the company directly. Yes, it's okay to be rude and hang up on these crooks.
Expect disaster relief charity email scams in your inbox
You want to help and the scammers know this. They are well practiced professionals. Tips:
Donate to trusted, well-known charities. Beware of scammers who create fake charities during natural disasters. Always verify a charity's legitimacy through its official website. If you have doubts, you can check with Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar. You can also check with the National Association of State Charity Officials whether charities must be registered in your state and if the charity contacting you is on file with your state.
Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone, check the charity's official website to see if the number you have is legitimate. If you're using text-to-donate, check with the charity to ensure the number is legitimate before donating.
Do not open suspicious emails. If you receive a suspicious email requesting donations or other assistance, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers regularly use email for phishing attacks and to spread malware.
Verify information in social media posts. Double-check any solicitation for charitable donations before you give. Crowd-funding websites often host individual requests for help but they are not always vetted by the site or other sources.
To report suspected fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721. If you need to report other fraudulent activities during or following a natural disaster, please notify FEMA at 1-866-720-5721
We're all in this together, stay safe out there and be sure to circle back to this page for updates.