When coping with a disaster like flooding, wildfires, tornadoes and other weather events, victims find themselves at a loss for where to begin when rebuilding and replacing belongings.

Replacing vital documents like birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, Social Security Cards, etc., is another task that can seem dauntingBetter Business Bureau warns victims to beware of unsolicited offers of assistance in replacing these essential documents for an upfront fee. You could be dealing with a scammer.

How the scam works

Recently in Kentucky and Mississippi, following devastating floods, state transportation officials warned about fake texts offering replacement drivers’ licenses to flood victimsIn Kentucky, some texts appeared to be from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). Clicking on the link provided in the text would have led to a fake website asking for personal information and money. For Mississippi residents, go to https://www.ms.gov/dps/license_renewal/.

Consumers have submitted reports to BBB Scam Tracker about “lookalike” websites that offer to help with everything from updating postal addresses to renewing or replacing ID cards and documents for an upfront fee. In many instances, they later discovered they could have accomplished their goal for little or no money… and have provided personal information to an unknown third party. Learn how to identify a fake website.

Scammers also continue to call and text people stating they need to replace Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security cards. Those agencies do not operate that way! Here’s how to spot a fake text.

BBB warns you to be mindful of any links you click on when searching for information, so you are not led to a site pretending to be the official agency.

How to avoid falling victim to a fake document replacement scam

  • Confirm the URL before entering personal and financial information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or impostor website without noticing. Before typing any sensitive information, double-check that the website and the link are secure. (Secure links start with “HTTPS://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)
  • Be wary of third-party websites. There are legitimate passport assistance services but check with BBB.org first to ensure you aren’t sharing your personal or financial information with a scammer.
  • Make online purchases with a credit card. Users can dispute fraudulent charges made on a credit card, which might not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.

Source: BBB.org

Some state and federal agencies will replace certain documents free of charge when an emergency is in effect. People can find information on replacing cards and documents at USA.gov’s Replace Your Vital Records page.

If you have been the victim of this or another scam, make others aware by filing a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker and contact the Federal Trade Commission to recover from possible identity theft. To find trustworthy businesses, go to https://www.bbb.org.