Watch out for all of the post-hurricane scams

Palm trees swaying in wind

You just know Hurricane Irene will bring out all of the predictable post-storm scams.

Here’s how to avoid:

Unscrupulous contractors

Be wary of any contractor who passes out fliers in your neighborhood.

These are often out-of-state contractors who make incomplete or shoddy repairs before disappearing, or con artists who collect a deposit for materials and vanish with your money, doing no work at all.

You're much better off asking friends and neighbors for recommendations of local workers or finding them through peer-to-peer rating sites like (which is free), (which charges a fee) or (which carries a fee).

Whomever you hire, get a contract and make sure the contractor’s license number is on all paperwork and that they have a real address and phone number, not just a P.O. Box and a cell phone.

Fake charities

The FBI has already issued a warning not to respond to any Irene-related emails asking for donations, no matter who claims to have sent it.

Most of those solicitations are scams.

If you want to help the victims of Hurricane Irene, donate money to the charities you know: The American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity are all safe bets.

Go to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity websites -- which end in ".org," not ".com" -- and donate online.

Don't let anyone going door-to-door claiming to “represent” those organizations take your money.

Keep a record of what you give so you can deduct that from your 2011 taxes.

Dangerous emails

The FBI also says to be very careful with emails about Irene from people you don’t know.

Don’t click on links to pictures or videos that claim to be about the storm from these sources. They could contain viruses that will damage your computer.

Gas gouging

We warned you about this pre-Irene and saw it during the storm when at least one New Jersey gas station along an evacuation route began charging $1.50 more per gallon than the state average.

With some areas still partially inaccessible because of flooding and fallen trees, we expect this to continue.

If you see gas gouging, record the station’s name and address. Take a picture of the pricing with your camera or smartphone and send the information to your state’s attorney general.

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