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Be wary of ‘natural disaster scams’

By Jordan Silva on Aug 29, 2023 11:38:34 AM

Tags: News, Other

Weeks after fires devastated Lahaina, many lives were lost, and thousands of people were displaced and are in need of assistance.

The recovery effort is well underway, and groups big and small are doing their best to get our neighbors, friends and family in Lahaina back on their feet.

Two things are certain when this type of disaster happens in Hawaii:

We will see the absolute best in humanity as our communities come together. The aloha spirit that makes Hawaii a magical place will be present, and friends, family and neighbors will come together and help each other survive this incredible loss. This is the Hawaii we know and love.

We will also see the exact opposite: The worst kinds of people will look to take advantage of the kind souls looking to donate money and help worthy causes. These kinds of people unfortunately also exist in our society, and because of that, we have to remain diligent.

“Natural disaster scams” are a category of fraud that target both the victims of tragedy and those looking to support recovery efforts.

By exploiting the desperate need for assistance, attackers try to trick victims into following malicious links or providing personal information that could lead to things like identity theft or wire fraud. The scammers might also target those looking to contribute to the recovery by sending fake fundraiser links to trick you into sending them money or your information.


Tips to keep safe:

  • Donate to trusted organizations or people you know. With so many online fundraising platforms available, we already see a flood of Go- FundMe and similar posts asking for help with recovery from the fire. Most are real people who were negatively affected by these tragic events and need help. Unfortunately, some are looking to take advantage of the kindness of those trying to help.

  • Be skeptical of emails, text messages, social media posts and even phone calls asking you to donate via Venmo, Cash App or other cash transfer apps. When in doubt, go to the charitable organization’s website directly and donate there.

  • Be wary of offers to help that seem too good to be true. Be sure any offers of resources are coming from reputable sources, and if you are asked to pay a processing fee or service fee to facilitate a donation offered to you, consider that a major red flag.

  • Be cautious of fly-by-night contractors offering deals too good to be true or making promises related to short-cutting insurance claims or other government processes. Make sure you are working with licensed and insured companies.

The recovery effort on Maui will take years, and while we should all do what we can to help that effort, we should also help keep our families safe from bad guys trying to take advantage of a now vulnerable population.


Jordan Silva serves as senior manager of security and cloud services at Hawaiian Telcom. Reach him at

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