A tragic event, such as an earthquake or hurricane, often prompts an outpouring of assistance from well-meaning citizens. The FBI reminds consumers who receive appeals to donate money in the aftermath of a natural disaster to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before responding to requests. Past tragedies and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization and/or good cause. Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
Charity Fraud Warning Signs
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, by clicking on links contained within those messages.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
- Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by using various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.
- Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- If you are solicited by a charity, don’t feel rushed or pressured into making an immediate commitment. Ask the caller or solicitor to provide written information about the charity’s programs and finances before you make a contribution.
Some of the major charities assisting in disaster relief efforts are:
- American Red Cross, 1-800-HELP-NOW
- Salvation Army, 1-800-SAL-ARMY
- The United Way, 1-800-272-4630
You may obtain independent verification of the solicitor’s identity before sending a contribution by contacting the State Office of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-552-9963.
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