While the Midwest is not subject to the devastation caused by hurricanes, residents can fall prey to hurricane-related fraud attempts by scammers. When tragedies like Hurricane Ian occur, the public pulls together to help those in need. Scammers will leverage natural disasters to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Charity fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work, using the money instead for the scammer’s own gain.
Disaster and charity fraud can come in many forms, from emails and social media posts, to crowdfunding platforms and cold calls. FBI Springfield offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of charity or disaster fraud.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. Research charity reviews online, state regulators of charities, and charity reports and ratings via the Better Business Bureau.
- Give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust.
- Never make charitable donations by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards are safer.
- After donating, be sure to review your financial accounts to ensure additional funds are not deducted or charged.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. Scammers often spoof agency phone numbers. It is always best to research the organization’s telephone number and call directly to verify. Do not be pressured or rushed to donate. If so, it may be a scam.
- Do not click on links from sources you don’t know. These could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone. Manually type out links instead of clicking on them.
- Be wary of charity names which sound very similar to well-known charities, as well as email addresses which are not consistent with the charity soliciting donations.
- Check the charity’s website URL—most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com.
- Government workers are required to carry official identification and show it if requested. Closely scrutinize any ID you see and call the agency directly to confirm a worker’s identity if you are unsure.
- Do not give out personal information without confirming the legitimacy of the person contacting you.
If you think you are a victim of disaster or charity fraud, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or online at the Department of Justice National Center for Disaster Fraud. You can also report suspicious email solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.