Donating to a fake charity won’t help anyone but the scamster in charge.
How to Protect Yourself from Charity and Disaster Fraud
With wildfires raging through California, Washington and Oregon and recent hurricane devastation in southern and southeastern states, it’s only natural to want to step up and donate money to organizations that aid displaced residents and animals or provide food, water and other supplies.
Sadly, it’s also the natural inclination of scammers during natural disasters to try to bilk money from goodhearted people eager to donate to a charitable cause or organization.
“While these scams can happen at any time, they are especially prevalent after high-profile disasters,” according to the FBI. “Criminals often use tragedies to exploit you and others who want to help.”
Click or swipe for 6 ways to protect yourself from charity and disaster fraud.
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1. Stick with charities you know and trust
The FBI recommends donating only to established charities, groups and organizations you already know and trust. Otherwise, your well-intentioned donation could end up lining the pockets of a fraudster instead of helping those in need.
2. Watch out for organizations with “copycat” names
One strategy used by charity scammers is using names that “sound a lot like the names of real charities,” according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This ploy tricks donors into a false sense of security, especially if they’re moved to make a large donation.
“This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving,” says the FTC. You can check a charity’s ratings and reviews and get information on how it spends donations at Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
3. Be wary of new organizations focused on high-profile disasters
If a charity or relief fund springs up out of nowhere claiming to be on the frontlines of a natural disaster cleanup, support effort or restoration, don’t be too quick to send the organization a donation. Sure, the charity may be legit, and if it is, you may want to donate. Just make sure to check out the charity or relief fund first to avoid handing money over to a scammer.
“Charity fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work – instead, the money goes to the fake charity’s creator,” says the FBI.
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4. Be suspicious of unsolicited emails
Always be skeptical of unsolicited emails from individuals claiming to be officials soliciting donations for a charitable organization or a good cause, warns the FBI. And never click on links or attachments, since the files may contain malware or viruses.
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5. Search for the charity’s scam victims online
Many people are embarrassed after realizing they donated to a scam charity and don’t want anyone else to know. Other scam victims just want revenge – and to keep others from falling for the same scheme. And you can bet you’ll find at least a few of the fake charity’s victims telling their stories online, along with their new disillusioned views on humanity.
Before you donate to a charity, the FTC recommends performing an online search with the organization’s name, adding “complaint,” “review,” “rating” or “scam” to the search criteria.
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6. Check the site’s web address
If an organization uses “.com” or “.net” in the web address, that could be a red flag that something is amiss with the charity’s legitimacy. “Most legitimate charity organization websites use “.org,” not “.com,” says the FBI.
Published by Debt.com, LLC