FORT MYERS, FLORIDA — Beth Booker's mother, who lives in a Fort Myers beach house, didn't want to evacuate before the storm. According to Beth Booker's Twitter account, Carol McDanel told her daughter that she had new hurricane impact windows and a stocked pantry.
McDanel told her daughter that because the worst part of the storm was headed for Tampa, she would stay and hunker down in her home of 24 years. Nevertheless, after Ian slammed the Fort Myers coast, Brooker never heard from her mother.
SCAMMERS ON TWITTER
After calling 911 and the Coast Guard, she called a good friend, a boat captain in Fort Myers. She also shared the story about her mother on Twitter, hoping to find help from someone in the area.
Her story continued when a scam artist sent her a text on Thursday saying they found her mom but needed her to send $596 to cover the cost of a hotel room. Brooker told her Twitter followers that she didn't feel right about it – several followers told her it was a scam. Brooker asked the scammer for her mom's middle name to verify proof of life, but the scammer did not know it.
Later, just after 4:00 pm on Thursday, Brooker Tweeted a video update: Her best friend, the boat captain, found Brooker's mom and was on the way to Naples to reunite with her daughter.
If you are missing a loved one or friend, visit missing.fl.gov, the state website for reporting missing persons related to Hurricane Ian. To report a missing person, fill out the form on behalf of “Someone Else.” You can also fill out the form on your own behalf if you need rescue and communications are limited.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis also warned individuals and businesses looking to contribute to Hurricane Ian relief efforts. He urges Floridians to be cautious of imposter GoFundMe style crowdfunding websites.
“I’ve seen disasters bring out some of the best in humanity but unfortunately the worst in some. As we saw during the tragic Surfside building collapse, scam artists will use the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian to scam people for their own personal gain. It’s absolutely despicable, and the best way to avoid falling victim is to do your research before giving to any recovery fund or charity. Crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe are often littered with fraud and scams. Do not give to a cause unless you have verified its legitimacy and never feel pressured to donate. If a charity forces you to donate in cash or by gift card, that’s a scam,” said Patronis.
Tips to avoid charity scams from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation.
- Some scammers will try to trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation that you never made.
- Scammers can change their caller ID to make a call look like it’s from a local area code.
- If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
- To be safer, pay by credit card or check.
- It’s good practice to keep a record of all donations. Review your statements closely to make sure you’re only charged the amount you agreed to donate.
- Before clicking on a link to donate online, make sure you know who is receiving your donation.
To check complaint history for a business or charity, check with Florida’s Consumer Protection Division.