According to a report in the the Chronicle Times newspaper in the town of Cherokee, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are now warning the state's residents that there is an increased risk of identity theft and other scams.
In most instances, a con artist will show up at or call a residence and pose as a government worker or contractor of some kind, the paper reported. Typically they will ask for a consumer's personal information under the auspices of collecting data for official use, or ask for money to file a fraudulent claim. In a similar scam, they will pose as a construction supervisor and ask for money upfront to begin working on a damaged structure or yard. But if the payment is made, the work will never begin.
"Unfortunately, some people take advantage of others when they are at their most vulnerable," FEMA Coordinating Officer Tom Hall told the paper. "We remind residents to be especially careful."
FEMA is warning consumers to be wary of anyone going door-to-door or asking for payment in advance, the paper said. However, some legitimate businesses may engage in this practice, so it's best to seek references and written estimates in these instances. Often, local governments will have information on contractors who are licensed, insured and reputable. Further, no construction company of this type would ask for payment upfront.
The agency is also advising consumers that, in the event of suspected fraud, they should get in touch the state's attorney general's office, and its Consumer Protection Division, the paper said. This can be done either by phone or online. In addition, there is a federal organization that deals with this type of crime, the National Center for Disaster Fraud, which should be contacted as well.
Consumers should be aware that most reputable agencies would not initiate contact with them seeking personal information such as their date of birth and their Social Security number. People concerned about potential identity theft may find some benefit from seeking credit monitoring services, which would alert them in the event that someone tries to open a line of credit using their personal information.