The robocall scammers hit close to home last week.

YouMail is based in Irvine, right in the middle of Orange County. We’ve been here for a while now and we’re proud to call it our home. However, our home was threatened last week.

We’re within miles of where there were treacherous fires going on, fires which have caused havoc – mass evacuations, families scrambling to find places to stay, people worried about whether their homes will be there the next day.

We’ve been glued to our phones, scouring trustworthy sites for updates on fire containment and wind patterns, waiting for a call from our kids’ school about closures or from grandma worrying about ash coming through her vents. On top of that, we’re receiving a rapid barrage of crucial alert calls and texts – saying what new area might need to evacuate, giving status on the firefighting efforts, informing us of care centers and resources and more. It’s been emotionally exhausting to constantly be on the edge of our seats.

So the last thing anyone in Orange County needs are scam calls. But, sure enough, we’re seeing them! What’s been unfortunately confirmed is that:

In panic, fear, and tragedy, bad people see it as an opportunity.
Scammers will stop at nothing to make a quick buck.

In the brief time that the fires have been burning, there have been disaster relief related scam calls, some even posing as those risking their lives to save ours and our property. This is no surprise, as we’ve seen variations of
charity scams for a while now. These scams range from firefighter donation scams, funds for police officers injured in the line of duty, donating cars and real estate to veterans, to earthquake victim relief funds, and more.

Here’s an example.

“Hi, my name is Steve. I’m calling on behalf of the police officers’ support association. The reason for the call is to remind residents that the police officers support association is having it’s annual drive, fundraising will help elect officials that stand behind assisting the families of police officers injured or tragically killed in the line of duty.”

In times of difficulty, our defense systems are often down and we’re ready to accept help or more willing to provide help. While this natural compassion is wonderful, bad actors work tirelessly to take advantage of this tendency. It’s important therefore, to be aware of the clear markers of a scam call.

How to Identify a Charity Scam Call

Most of these charity scams operate in the following way:

  1. Choose a tragedy or well-deserving group (injured officers, firefighters, veterans, displaced peoples, etc.).
  2. Robocall ceaselessly.
  3. Provide vague, brief information about the charity.
  4. Ask for a donation to acquire financial information and defraud recipient.
  5. And/or ask for sensitive personal information to commit identity theft.

How To Avoid Becoming Their Next Victim

As prevalent as these charity scam calls are, there are easy steps to take to avoid becoming their next victim. FEMA has warned of disaster-aid scams, in the past, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department recently published types of scams to look out for. One scam even relies on criminals posing as fraudulent fire inspectors!

Orange County Sheriff’s Department, CA, Facebook

First, never provide money or donations over the phone.
Fight the pressure and desire to help immediately and take a moment to hang up and go directly to legitimate websites.

Second, be wary of suspicious solicitation.
These scammers will pose as fire inspectors, HVAC cleaning crews, police officers, and similar roles. They rely on the combination of fear and authority to ultimately defraud you.

Finally, make sure to get call protection.
Filtering these scam calls out is crucial to truly beating them – YouMail works hard at getting these right, even at the local level. In times of disaster, you shouldn’t have to worry if you can trust the voice on the other end of your phone. We’ll stop the scammers from ringing your phone and filter out any voicemail they leave to keep your inbox clean and ready for what matters.

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