Charity Fraud Podcast Transcript
Welcome to the Informed Consumer, providing the latest tips and tools to assist consumers in making informed decisions, from the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch.
Today’s topic is: Charity Fraud.
A tragic event, such as an earthquake or hurricane, often prompts an outpouring of assistance from well-meaning residents. The Federal Bureau of Investigation 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:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited incoming e-mails, or spam, 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.
- You may obtain independent verification of the solicitor’s identity before sending a contribution by contacting the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-552-9963.
Some of the major charities assisting in disaster relief efforts are:
- The American Red Cross which can be reached at 1-800-HELP-NOW
- The Salvation Army at 1-800-SAL-ARMY
- and The United Way at 1-800-272-4630
Thanks for listening to the Informed Consumer. For more information on this topic or if you feel that you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222-8435 or visit our web site at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/consumer. Informed Consumer is produced by the Fairfax County, Virginia, government.