We have been very concerned about everyone, but especially our optical friends and family, this last week during the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. We hate to have to put this additional warning out but we all need to beware of scammers. Disaster scams are crimes of opportunity and they are already out there for this one. They will create fronts for phony charities and tell you that your dollars will go directly to victims. Legitimate charities don’t operate this way. This is an excerpt from an article on the subject from Forbes by John Wasik.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself (some of this is courtesy of the FBI):
- Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
- Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of non-profit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its non-profit status.
- Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
- Do not be pressured into making contributions, as reputable charities do not use such tactics.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
- Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
- Most legitimate charities websites end in .org rather than .com.
- If you have damage to your property, deal with your insurance company first. They will send out a claims adjuster. No one else can handle your claim.
- You don’t have to accept a claims check on the spot. Get some professionals to appraise your damage. Get their estimates in writing and present the highest estimate to your insurance company. Negotiate for a fair settlement.
- Many disaster fraudsters troll neighborhoods looking for a quick buck. Tell the local police if you see them.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
- If you need to file a disaster claim with FEMA, don’t fall for a “form completion” service.
- Watch out for phony inspectors. Ask to see their credentials.
- Advance Fee loan companies will offer you a “guaranteed loan” — if you pay a fee upfront. They are scams.
- Water “testing” services offer to check the safety and quality of your water. Ask your local water provider if your water’s okay to drink. They will issue widely publicized warnings if it isn’t potable.
The FBI further suggests that if you know of fraudulent disaster relief claims submitted by a person or organization or fake charity, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721
Here is some information on optical related relief efforts:
OneSight: We are prepared to help impacted communities through our established voucher and outreach programs. Charitable organizations like the American Red Cross, Prevent Blindness and other local agencies can refer individuals in need of assistance with eye exams and glasses. Store associates are encouraged to reach out to their established local partners and help as requests arise.
VSP: VSP patients affected by Superstorm Sandy: If you need eyecare or replacement glasses, you can receive them by calling 800-877-7195 for an authorization. Non-VSP patients can contact their nearest local American Red Cross chapter or shelter to request a VSP gift certificate redeemable for free eyecare services.
Red Cross: To give money to the Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org, call 800-Red-Cross or text the word “Redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation