With the arrival of Hurricane Florence on the U.S. east coast, the Department of Homeland Security reports an increased likelihood of cyber criminals leveraging the tragedy to trick users into giving up their credentials and donating money to bogus charities. Attempts to scam the public will likely continue long into the recovery effort. Please exercise caution handling any unsolicited messages asking for donations in relation to Hurricane Florence relief.
The Federal Trade Commission has issued a guideline on recognizing and avoiding scams:
- Do your research. Have you ever heard of this organization before?
- Looking for a charity to support? Search for a cause you care about – like “hurricane relief” or “homeless kids” – and phrases like “best charity” or “highly rated charity.”
- When you consider giving to a specific charity, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”
- Use these organizations to help you research charities.
- Be careful how you pay. Pay attention to the method of donation.
- If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it. That’s how scammers ask you to pay.
- To be safer, pay by credit card or check.
- It’s a good practice to keep a record of all donations. And review your statements closely to make sure you’re only charged the amount you agreed to donate – and that you’re not signed up to make a recurring donation.
- Before clicking on a link to donate online, make sure you know who is receiving your donation. Read Donating Through an Online Giving Portal for more information.
- Keep scammers tricks in mind. If something seems wrong, it probably is.
- Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. That’s something scammers do.
- Some scammers try to trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation that you never made.
- Scammers can change caller ID to make a call look like it’s from a local area code.
- Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving.
- Scammers make lots of vague and sentimental claims but give no specifics about how your donation will be used.
- Bogus organizations may claim that your donation is tax-deductible when it is not.
- Guaranteeing sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation is not only a scam, it’s illegal.