Hurricane Ida has left millions of people across the country without power, food, housing, or in some cases, dead. Emergency workers and volunteers in Louisiana and across the country are busy and many others across the nation want to help. Unfortunately, scammers also are also busy – posing as phony charities.
The FTC has published some helpful information (full story here) and advice to help you ensure that your money gets in the hands of charities you want to help – and not the pockets of some scammers. Here are some tips.
Separating the Real from the Fake
Be careful when looking for charities that are targeting specific events. Do your research and work with well-respected charities.
There are many charities that pop-up immediately after a disaster to “help” victims of a tragedy. Some appeals for help via Facebook and other social media platforms are not legitimate and should be avoided entirely.
Research is key. Search for a charity name and its “complaint”, “review”, “rating”, or “scam” to see if other people have reported this charity as a scam, or if it has positive reviews.
Be Careful How You Give
Just because a charity is helping a worthy cause, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the people behind it are trustworthy. Bogus organizations might claim your donation is tax-deductible, but it isn’t. Exercise caution, just as you would with any other transaction, especially those conducted online.
- Do not donate with cash, gift cards, or wire money. This is what the scammers want! After verifying the legitimacy of the organization, always pay with a credit card or by check.
- Keep a log of all donations. You should carefully review your statements to ensure that you are only being charged for the amount you have agreed to donate and not to make recurring donations.
- When texting to donate, please confirm the number on the charity’s website.
- Before you click on the link to donate online make sure that you are aware of who will be receiving your donation.
Hello, I’m a Scammer!
During disasters, some scammers make an extra push to get people on the phone. They know that many people are eager to give to disaster relief and they seek to take full advantage of this generosity.
Below are some smart ways to avoid being scammed by a phone call:
- Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a donation. Scammers will do that.
- Scammers will try to trick you to pay them by telling you “thank you” for a donation you have not given.
- To make it appear that a call is coming from a local area number or a legitimate charity, scammers may use tools or software to alter the number displayed on the caller ID.
- Scammers may use names that sound very much like the names of real charities. It is a good idea to research your potential charity before you give.
If you see any red flags, consider a different charity and report scams to the FTC. Find your state charity regulator at nasconet.org and report to them, too. Please share any information that you may have, such as the name and phone number of the organization, or the description of the fundraiser.
Organizations That Can Assist You in Finding Charities
These organizations offer ratings and reports on how charities spend donations and how they do business.
- BBB Wise Giving Alliance
- Charity Navigator
- The IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tells you if your donation would be tax-deductible.
Scammers Gonna Scam
Unfortunately, there are people out there that will always find a way to scam another fellow human out of money or belongings. Crooks have been around for as long as….well, humans have been around. Ever hear of the phrase “If you believe that, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you”? That saying comes from a string of some outrageous con artists in the late 1800’s who were able to convince their marks that they could own the Brooklyn Bridge….for a small fee, of course.
Long gone are the days of street corner swindlers who have some city landmarks for sale. Today’s ruses are much sneakier and can leave you with an empty bank account, or worse, a stolen identity. The best that you can do is to be alert and cautious whenever you give your personal information like name, address, and billing info to a person over the phone or through a platform online.
If you are considering donating to a charity, always take your time, do your research, don’t let anyone rush or pressure you into donating (scammers are notorious for these tactics), and if all else fails, consider donating your time to a local shelter or donating blood. There are many ways you can contribute to humanity, and each of those ways are valuable.
If you think you have been scammed or someone has attempted to scam you, try to write down any pertinent information (i.e. phone number, name, address, email address, license plate, etc.) and report it to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) who will alert law enforcement across the country.