Surviving the Storm: Beware of Post-Disaster Scams


In light of recent storms, it’s important for Californians to be mindful of potential fraud and scams that too often emerge during disasters. Some people target emergency survivors, trying to rip them off, steal personal information or impersonate government staff.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) advises survivors to remain vigilant against fraud and scams and encourages them to report any suspicious activity or potential fraud by scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals.

Fraudulent repair contractors 

  • Use licensed contractors backed by reliable references. A licensed contractor is required for any job exceeding $500 in value, including labor and supplies.
  • To find licensed contractors check with the Contractors State License Board, which is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
  • Read the contract carefully, do not pay more than $1,000 for a down payment, and never pay more than the work that has been done and the supplies that have been delivered.
  • Demand that contractors detail the job to be done with guarantees in writing.

Fake offers of local or federal aid  

  • Don’t trust someone who asks for money. Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money. Federal nor state staff will never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help with filling out applications.
  • Don’t believe anyone who promises a disaster grant and asks for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.

Donate responsibly to help victims during a disaster

  • Before donating to a charity or cause, verify the story and relationship to the victim.
  • Check sources such as or to confirm the charity is responsible and transparent.
  • Donation sites such as GoFundMe do not guarantee the authenticity to the donation cause. Verify the cause before donating.

Price Gouging Protections

  • When an emergency takes place, some businesses may raise their prices excessively on essential goods and services like drinking water, housing, food, and fuel.
  • California Penal Code section 396 prohibits excessive and unjustified increases in the prices of essential consumer goods and services, construction services, hotel lodging and residential rental properties during and shortly after a declared state of emergency or local emergency.
  • For items or services a seller only started offering after an emergency is declared, the seller may not charge a price greater than 50 percent of what it cost the seller to provide the item or service.

Report Scams, Fraud and Identity Theft 

During each disaster, it is important to stay tuned to local media and trusted local and federal social media for current updates about ongoing disasters. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, check with FEMA or local law enforcement to ensure your identity is protected.