How to Avoid Scams After a Disaster

Ongoing catastrophic and life-threatening flooding is expected to continue across southeastern Texas as a result of Hurricane Harvey, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As rain and flooding continue throughout the region, many people are sending money and resources to help those who are impacted by the devastation.

If you’re thinking about giving to charity, the Federal Trade Commission warns people to do their research to avoid fraudsters:

Signs of a Charity Scam

Charities and fundraisers use the phone, face-to-face contact, email, the internet and mobile devices to solicit and obtain donations. Naturally, scammers use these same methods to take advantage of your goodwill. Regardless of how they reach you, avoid any charity or fundraiser that:

  • Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
  • Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

Charity Checklist

Take the following precautions to make sure your donation benefits the people and organizations you want to help.

  • Ask for detailed information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number.
  • Get the exact name of the organization and do some research. Searching the name of the organization online, especially with the word “complaint(s)” or “scam”, is one way to learn about its reputation.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
  • Check if the charity is trustworthy by contacting the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving AllianceCharity NavigatorCharity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
  • Never send cash donations. For security and tax purposes, it’s best to pay by check or by credit card.
  • Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. Scammers often request donations to be wired because wiring money is like sending cash: once you send it, you can’t get it back.
  • Be wary of charities that spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters. Even if they are legitimate, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.

For more tips and information on how to avoid scams, click here. 

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