How To Stay Vigilant Against Disaster OpportunistsJanuary 15, 2016
The unfortunate reality of large-scale crises is that when disaster strikes, there are always people ready to take advantage of the chaos. Various residents of Porter Ranch and the surrounding communities affected by the SoCalGas blowout have posted on social media about their recent experiences facing suspicious activity, including theft, fraud and door-to-door scams. It’s hard enough to navigate an environmental crisis of this nature, particularly if you’ve had to relocate. To ensure that you and your family stay safe and informed, here are some tips on the types of suspicious activity you can watch out for, and how to respond should you encounter it.
Here are the four most common types reported by the Porter Ranch community:
- Door-to-door sales
Although there are legitimate door-to-door salespeople, it is especially important to be vigilant about door-to-door scams during a state of emergency. A door-to-door scam in this context may be conducted either as an immediate financial scheme for an unregistered business, or to discern whether the residents of a house or apartment have vacated that space.
You are not obligated to open the door or give any personal information. If you do choose to speak with a person claiming to be a door-to-door salesperson, it is important that you ask for valid identification and avoid providing details about your schedule or any relocation plans. Even if a salesperson appears to be selling a legitimate product or service, take the time to call or research their purported business. It is important to do this before providing any personal details, credit card information or signing any agreements. A legitimate salesperson will leave your property when you ask them to and will not force a sale.
If you have any information about individuals conducting suspicious door-to-door sales in your area, contact local law enforcement right away.
- Suspicious calls
A registered attorney affiliated with a legitimate firm or agency will never call you from a blocked number. They will certainly not ask for credit card or other private details via phone, so if you receive a call asking for these details, take note of any information provided in the call.
Porter Ranch residents have also been receiving calls from individuals claiming to be SoCalGas representatives soliciting signups and subsequently denying requests to install air purifier systems. SoCalGas has confirmed that these calls are unauthorized. Generally speaking, neither SoCalGas representatives nor licensed attorneys will call you unless you have first reached out to them.
- Theft and burglaries
Some Porter Ranch residents have noticed unknown vehicles conducting unauthorized surveillance in their neighborhoods. Due to the massive relocation caused by the gas blowout, the risk of burglary and theft is higher than usual. If you do notice any suspicious activity, don’t hesitate to call the police. If you have relocated and are concerned about theft, it may be worthwhile to look into inexpensive surveillance cameras to monitor anyone approaching your residence. You can also ask neighbors if they have existing equipment that serves a similar purpose.
Another tactic that burglars could use to determine whether a home has been vacated is to leave items at the front door and monitor whether those items are collected. Since it is not possible for law enforcement to monitor every vacated home at all times, neighborhood watch programs can be a useful resource to report and keep abreast of suspicious activities. Learn more about the resources available in Porter Ranch from the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council.
- Rent price gouging
Another unfortunate outcome of disasters that prompt relocation is the prevalence of rent price gouging. Landlords or private homeowners may attempt to take advantage of your urgent relocation needs by hiking up their rental prices astronomically. Please note that it is illegal for landlords to increase rents by any more than 10% after a state of emergency has been declared. Should you encounter rent price gouging, you can report it directly to the Country of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Take advantage of online rental price comparisons to gain a more transparent view of your temporary relocation options.
Be especially meticulous throughout this period about recording the cost of any rental or relocation fee. Even if you were not relocated directly through SoCalGas, you may be eligible for relocation reimbursement.
There’s no one correct way to navigate this type of crisis, but having an awareness of scams can help minimize the financial and emotional toll of this gas leak. Here are the primary guidelines to bear in mind.
- Participate in Neighborhood Watch programs
- Report any suspicious cars or persons to the LAPD’s non-emergency line (877-ASK-LAPD).
- Report suspicious packages, notes or phone calls to the non-emergency line
- Open the door to people you don’t know
- Attempt to confront suspicious persons yourself
- Give out personal or confidential information to individuals calling from blocked numbers or individuals that you did not first reach out to yourself
- Make any information regarding your relocation public or easily visible
Should you have any questions about receiving damages related to the gas well blowout, you can contact our experienced, licensed attorneys by calling (855) 300-4459. Contacting us requires no fees or obligations.