Officials Urge Fire Victims To Guard Against Scams

Nov 10, 2020

Officials in Oregon are warning victims of this year’s wildfires to be wary of potential scammers.

For people who’ve lost their home to a wildfire, the clean-up and recovery process can be daunting. And it’s made worse by scammers trying to rip-off victims during their time of need.

Workers clean up hazardous materials this month in the aftermath of the Echo Mountain Complex Fire near Lincoln City.
Credit Lincoln County

Randy Nattis is the incident commander for the US EPA. He said during a press conference Tuesday that he’s heard reports of Oregon property owners paying more than a thousand dollars to crooks who claim the government needs to take ash samples before clean-up can begin.

“No one is going door-to-door from the state or EPA asking for this type of information," said Nattis. "So if someone is coming to your door saying that you must pay for samples to be taken, that would be a scam.”

The Oregon Department of Justice said it’s looking into such reports. But Ellen Klem, the director of consumer outreach and education at the Oregon DOJ, said that the number of victims could be much higher than anyone realizes. “I am particularly concerned about individuals who may not even know that they’re victimized," said Klem. "Those are the cases that keep me up at night.”

Klem said the uptick in potential fraud cases mirrors a similar wave of cases at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. She says people who suspect a scam should contact the agency’s consumer hotline at 1-877-877-9392.