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After the Disaster Scams

After the Disaster Scams

Scams often pop up after natural disasters or emergencies. You can avoid scams by being and staying aware of common scam tactics. 

Imposter Scams & Phishing

Be aware of imposters. Scammers may pose as important people. They may claim they are working with a government agency. They bait their victim with great offers. Or they scare them with threats. They are ‘phishing’ for personal or financial information. Their goal is to get you to react through emotion instead of logic.

Price Gouging

The need for basic goods and services naturally increases after disasters. Michigan law prohibits retailers from charging prices that are "grossly in excess” of what others are charging for the same thing. 

You can report price gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Team online or at 877-765-8388.

Emergency Home and Property Damage Repair Scams

Review these warning signs before hiring a “professional:"

  • A door-to-door salesperson is offering a ‘one-time only’ special deal
  •  Feeling pressured to act now
  •  The contract is confusing
  •  They don’t have a license
  • They can’t give you references 
  •  You must pay for everything before they start the work
  • You must pay in cash
  • They will not write out their offer
  • Their vehicle has out-of-state license plates
  • They don’t have a business sign on their vehicle


  • Get in touch with your insurance company
  • Speak to a local licensed professional
  • Review credentials and references
  • Get more than one written estimate
  •  Ask for a contract and read it carefully

Scammers attracted by FEMA payments

Scammers will go after eligible FEMA payments.  Remember: 

  • Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money  
  • FEMA employees always carry an ID badge with a photo 
  • FEMA will not contact you unless you have called or applied for assistance 
  • FEMA never charges a fee to inspect your property 
  • FEMA does not hire or endorse specific contractors 
  • FEMA contracted inspectors assessing damage never charge a fee to inspect your property

Flood-damaged Vehicles

Flood-damaged cars are often sold online. They can quickly be shipped across the country. Making it common for car dealers outside the disaster area to receive and sell these vehicles.  

Flood-damaged cars don’t always show damage right away. This doesn’t mean vital parts like airbag sensors, brakes, and electrical systems aren’t affected. 

Before buying a used car get the VIN number. It’s important to do a VIN check. You’ll also want to review the vehicle’s history. And it never hurts to have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle.

Signs of a flood-damaged vehicle:

  • Musty or “over-perfumed” smell
  • Discolored interior
  • Mold
  • Water stains, moisture, mud, or residue in the trunk, under the carpet, or in unusual areas

Disaster Relief Charity Scams

Disasters and tragedies are times when scammers try to exploit the sympathy of donors. They will use well-known charities but change the name slightly. 

You can avoid disaster scams and still contribute to relief and rebuilding projects by doing the following:

  • Do not respond immediately to donation requests
  • Read the name carefully
  • Research the charity before donating
  • Find out if the charity needs to be registered to receive money in Michigan.
  • Donate to well-known charities
  •  Search the Attorney General Charitable Trust page for organizations registered to solicit in Michigan

For more information, read these related consumer alerts:

Report Fraud

If you have been the victim of a disaster-related scam, or if you would like to file a general consumer complaint, please contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form