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.  Hurricane Katrina was a benchmark disaster for charity fraud, leading to more than 1,200 federal prosecutions of disaster fraud.  Complaints following last year’s Hurricane Harvey were consistent in number.

Phone calls, phishing emails, and fake websites are the primary method of collection, but some scammers are bold enough to solicit door to door or arrange for in home pick up of donated goods.

Consumers should always do their homework on any charity they are considering supporting.

Our partners at WXYZ in Detroit provide some tips on how to vet your charities and caution viewers about some red flags to look out for.

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Here are a few warning signs and tips to look for:

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 or gift cards.

To submit your consumer complaint, use our online form.