Inside LADA

September 8, 2017: Hurricanes, Wildfires Give Way to Fraud Involving Online Equipment Sales

Disaster Scam Graphic

Natural disasters bring out the best – and worst — in people. Most want to help, but scammers are quick to take advantage of people’s willingness to assist those affected by hurricanes and wildfires.

The latest scam targets people selling equipment used for disaster relief, such as diesel generators, chainsaws, motor boats and boating supplies, on websites like Craigslist or eBay. 

The scammer contacts the seller and claims to be gathering disaster relief supplies. The crook then persuades the victim to donate the item or sell it at a greatly reduced price. The equipment is never used for relief efforts. Instead, the scammer resells it for profit.

TIPS:

  • Ask if the buyer is with a disaster relief organization. Confirm the group’s legitimacy by searching with tools such as the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations Select Check
  • Make sure the item will be needed for rescue efforts when it’s delivered at a later date
  • Review the caller’s area code to verify that he or she actually lives near the disaster area

Report fraud to the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs at (800) 593-8222 or http://dcba.lacounty.gov.

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