By Shirley Rooker, President, Call For Action

Whenever a natural disaster occurs, scammers are never far behind. They prey on our willingness to help others in need and cast their nets far and wide to find victims.

The approach is likely to come through the internet or by telephone. The person claims to be with a charity that is raising money to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Consumers should always do their homework on any charity they are considering supporting.

Independently research any charity that reaches out to you. Verify that you have a legitimate phone number or the correct website before sharing any payment or other personal information

Some scammers are even bold enough to solicit door to door or arrange for in home pick up of donated goods. Never give to door to door solicitors, ask for information about the charity and find a secure way to give directly.

Red flags:

  • The person tells you how urgent the need is and offers to send someone to pick up your donation.
  • Your request for material about the charity is either ignored or the person hangs up on you.
  • There is no information about how the money is going to be used.
  • The request is for cash donations only.
  • Or you are asked to send a donation by wire transfer or a third party payment web site. While these payment methods may be used by charities, it’s up to you to make sure the charity requesting the donation is legitimate.
  • The approach is through a spam email.

Things to do and questions to ask:

  • How will your donation aid victims of the event?
  • Ask if the caller is a 3rd party fundraiser? If so what percentage of the donation goes to the charity?
  • How much of the donation will be used for administrative costs?
  • Is the organization tax exempt?
  • Do not give out credit card or bank information until you have established the legitimacy of the organization.
  • Do not give cash.
  • Do not buy items from telemarketers who promise that the proceeds are going to help the hurricane victims or their families. Instead, give directly to a charity and cut out the middle man.
  • Take a very careful look at the name of the charity. There are “look alike” names that are similar to well known charities. If you aren’t sure of a name, look it up on the internet or in a phone book.

In addition, there are “look alike” web addresses that may be one letter different from a legitimate charity, or a letter may be transposed in the web address.

The bogus calls and emails and web sites are just starting. Be forewarned, check out any request for donations. While you may be eager to help people in need, take the time to make sure your donation will really help, not just line the pockets of a crook.

To find charities that provide assistance to people in need go to:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1451

http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/

http://www.charitywatch.org/