Post-Ida Tips: Don’t compound tragedy by getting scammed, or poisoned by a generator

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U.S. PIRG Education Fund offers advice to avoid ripoffs and stay safe

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

NEW YORK —  After making landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, Hurricane Ida tore a path of destruction from the Gulf Coast all the way to New York and New Jersey. With billions of dollars in damage from flooding, wind and tornadoes, far too many people must make insurance claims, repairs and begin rebuilding. 

To help respond to the disaster, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has put together a list of tips and best practices to avoid scams and stay safe in the days and weeks ahead:

  • Stay alert for price gouging: Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and 32 other states have anti-price gouging laws that protect consumers from inflated prices after an emergency. If a business is hiking prices for gas, water, building supplies, food or other needs, people should report it to their state attorney general’s office. Here’s a list of contacts for all states’ attorneys general.

  • Use generators with caution: If your electricity is out and you’re relying on a generator in your home or someone else’s, make sure the generator is outdoors and isn’t in any kind of enclosed structure. Authorities along the Gulf Coast are reporting dozens of people hospitalized in separate incidents after being poisoned by carbon monoxide because generators weren’t properly ventilated. At least a few victims have died. We offer more generator tips here.

  • Watch out for fraud and scams: After past disasters, con artists have posed as FEMA employees, insurance agents and housing inspectors to steal information and money. Scam robocalls have promised victims money for simple information. Ask for appropriate identification from anyone who stops by. 

  • Don’t give out personal information to someone you didn’t contact independently. 

  • File claims quickly: Report your claim as soon as possible because insurance companies generally process claims first come, first served, according to the Consumer Federation of America. 

  • Avoid large deposits: Don’t give anyone a large down payment before they provide their goods or services. And make any deposits by credit card if possible because you have additional protections by law. Never pay in cash or with a wire transfer or gift card.

  • Make sure your food is safe: Hurricanes, tropical storms and flood waters carry a lot of dangerous bacteria that can contaminate food or food preparation materials. The basic rule is if food has touched any flood waters, even if it’s still in the packaging, it should be thrown out. 

For our full list of tips, see our guide: If you were hit by Ida, here’s how to avoid scams, injuries, price-gouging