Make sure you are on trustworthy sites when replacing vital documents

While many Kentuckians have recently had to deal with the aftermath of devastating flooding, even our region has seen its share of torrential rains and intense storms, which could worsen in the coming months as hurricane season slackens. intensifies.

Whether it’s a disaster caused by a flood, tornado or other weather events, you may need to rebuild and replace vital documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and maps. of social security. If so, you’ll need to watch out for unsolicited offers of assistance to replace these essential documents for an upfront fee. It could be a scammer trying to take advantage of your misfortune.

Kentucky transportation officials issued warnings to flood victims after learning of fake texts offering replacement driver’s licenses. Some texts appeared to be from the Kentucky Cabinet of Transportation (KYTC), but clicking on the provided link would have taken the recipient to a fake website asking for personal information and money.

Other consumers submitted reports to BBB Scam Tracker on “look-alike” websites that offered help with everything from updating mailing addresses to renewing or replacing ID cards and documents for a fee. initial costs. Unfortunately, in many cases they found out later that they could have achieved their goal for little or no money and provided personal information to an unknown third party.

Scammers also continue to call and text people saying they need to replace their Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security cards. These agencies do not contact you in this way.

Overall, you should be aware of the links offered when looking for information. In addition to risking sharing your personal information with an impostor, clicking on the wrong link may direct you to a site where malware or spyware could be unknowingly downloaded onto your computer.

There are some steps you can take to avoid falling victim to a fake document replacement scam or government impostor website:

— Confirm the URL before entering personal and financial information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored advertisement or an impostor website without noticing. Before entering sensitive information, verify that the website and the link are secure. (Secure links begin with “HTTPS://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)

— Beware of third-party websites. There are legitimate passport assistance services, but check with BBB.org first to make sure you’re not sharing your personal or financial information with a scammer.

— Make online purchases with a credit card. Users can dispute fraudulent charges made to a credit card, which may not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to recover any personal information you may have shared.

— Look up phone numbers before calling. Scammers may ask you to call a number, and may do so under the guise of a real business or agency, so always check any numbers they send you before calling. If the scammer puts you online, they’ll ask you to “confirm your identity” by giving them your PIN, password, social security number, or other personal information. No legitimate business or government agency will ever ask you to reveal your security information over the phone. If you realize you’re talking to a scammer, hang up and block the number.

Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.