Justice Department takes aim at Hurricane Harvey scammers

Around a dozen agencies are working together to take down illegal activity.

MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images

This week a number of federal and state law enforcement agencies teamed up to prosecute any scammers taking advantage of the Hurricane Harvey aftermath. Texas-based agencies along with the SEC, FBI, FTC and others have created a working group that will investigate any fraud, theft and price gouging related to the hurricane. "Under the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, we bring a comprehensive law enforcement focus to combat any criminal activity arising from the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey and the rebuilding efforts underway," said acting US Attorney Abe Martinez in a statement.

Among the activities under the group's jurisdiction are online and phishing scams. The Department of Justice released tips earlier this week on how to avoid fraudulent charitable schemes including those hosted on fake websites and those pursuing donations via email. It warned people not to click on email attachments or links from unsolicited emails, to vet groups rather than just following a website link and to be wary of charities' sites that end in .com rather than .org. The FTC also encouraged those looking to donate to check charities out on websites like the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch to make sure they're legitimate.

"We intend to use all of the resources at our disposal to both help our registrants and to hold those accountable who try to use this disaster to take advantage of other people," said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. "There is no place for fraud or shady practices in the rebuilding and recovery of the communities in Texas and Louisiana that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey."

The Department of Justice lists a number of resources here for reporting fraudulent activity and scam protection.