BATON ROUGE – Natural disasters like Hurricane Ida unfortunately create opportunities for scammers to take advantage of those affected. They strike when people are focused on getting their property repaired or their home utility services restored so they are less likely to question requests for money or personal information.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana joins state and federal officials in reminding everyone to be on the lookout for fraud and know how to avoid it. Keep in mind that scammers may reach out through email, social media, text messages or phone calls, or they may approach you in person. It’s important to be suspicious whenever ANYONE asks you for money or for your personal, financial or insurance information.
Here are some tips to avoid Hurricane Ida-related fraud and scams:
• Look closely at all Hurricane Ida-related communications coming your way to make sure they are legitimate before responding. If you get a call, say that you will call back on the official government phone number. If it’s a real request, the caller will not mind you taking the time to verify it. Ask to see official identification, such as a badge or government-issued ID, if someone comes to your home claiming to represent a government or recovery assistance agency. Do your own research and check out official websites for companies or government agencies if you get an email from someone claiming to work there.
• It’s ok to ignore cold calls, emails, text messages, visits or other outreach – especially if someone is making you uncomfortable or pressuring you to act quickly without having time to think about it or talk to others. Hang up, walk away or delete without replying.
• Watch out for red flags, such as people telling you that you have to pay a fee to apply for assistance. You WILL NOT need to pay anything to apply for or get disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Small Business Administration. Anyone claiming to be a federal official who asks you for money is a fraud.
• Never give your insurance policy numbers, coverage details or other personal or financial information to companies you have not researched first. Contractors and home improvement companies may call claiming to be reaching out on behalf of FEMA or your property insurance carrier. Before you enter a contract, make a payment or share any of your information, make sure that any contractor you are considering is licensed and carries adequate insurance. You can check the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors website to see a list of licensed businesses.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud or were approached by a scammer, report it as soon as possible. That can help authorities stop it quickly and limit how many people are affected. You can call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721 or email email@example.com. See online fraud-fighting resources at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov.
Free Identity Protection Services
Eligible Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana members can sign up for free identity protection services offered in partnership with Experian, a national company that specializes in identity protection.
Most customers are eligible for these services, which include:
• Fraud alerts with credit monitoring
• Complete identity repair and restoration services available on demand if you are the victim of identity theft
Identity repair is automatically available to you with no enrollment required. If you become a victim of identity theft, contact Experian’s customer care team at 1-888-270-0056. An Experian investigator will act as your guide and advocate from start to finish until the issue is resolved.
Credit monitoring is available as an extra layer of protection that helps you stay informed of your credit activity. If you want these services, you need to sign up. You will not be automatically enrolled.
To sign up for credit monitoring with Experian:
• Visit the Experian IdentityWorks website to enroll
• When prompted, enter the activation code: BCBSLA21
After you sign up, Experian will check in with you each year to make sure you are still eligible for these services. If you are and wish to continue, you can quickly renew, and your coverage will remain in place.
For more information about these services, visit Blue Cross’ identity protection services website.
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube page to see short videos on various health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates. Blue Cross posts often on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.
For information on what Blue Cross is doing in response to Hurricane Ida, visit http://www.bcbsla.com/storm.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past three years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.