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Officials warn of scams in the aftermath of Florence

CNN. NA-44SA "SC Florence-Floodway" Snapshot.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) -- The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs is warning the public about potential scams in the wake of Tropical Storm Florence.

The SCDCA released several useful tips on Monday for those looking to donate, as well as those seeking recovery assistance in the aftermath.

Carri Grube Lybarker works with SCDCA and says scammers follow the headlines all over the country seeking disasters and the opportunity to take advantage.

"We have big hearts here in South Carolina and certainly want to help those affected by the hurricane," said Lybarker. "But fake charities pop up in the wake of disasters."

The department has the following advice for Good Samaritans looking to avoid hurting themselves in an attempt to help those in need. They include:

*Donating to well-known charities. Be wary of those that seemingly sprung up overnight. Also, phony charities sometimes disguise themselves to look and sound like those that are established.

*Seek out a charity to support. Look for the charity of your choice and be careful of those that solicit you.

*Do not give or send cash. Checks and credit cards are easier to track.

*Know where your money is going. Ask what percentage will actually be going to those in need and look into the history and mission of each charity.

The scams are not just limited to those trying to help, but also those needing help as they try to pick up the pieces.

"Home repair scams are common all the time but especially whenever we have these kind of disasters," said Lybarker. "So you want to make sure you do your research, that you get recommendations from friends and family and that you make sure they have their appropriate licenses."

Other tips for those needing help:

*Don't pay up front. There could be small deposits but it is rare a legitimate business will ask for a full payment before any services. The SCDCA recommends not paying more than half, at most.

*Do your research. Listen to recommendations/reviews from multiple trusted referrels.

*Verify information. For example, check a contractor's ID and ask to see the license/permit from the city, county or state. You can also check with the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation or call the SCDCA at 800-922-1594.

Officials with Consumer Affairs also generally ask that people be wary of emails, texts and pop-ups, ensure proper firewalls are working on computers, avoid providing personal information to cold callers and, lastly, be wary of those who use high-pressure tactics to rush a payment.

"Just take pause," said Lybarker. "We know that there may be a sense of urgency, but access a scenario, a situation, and just put your thinking caps on and see if it sounds too good to be true."




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