Kindhearted Americans anxious to help Hurricane Harvey victims are at risk of being scammed.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning on Aug. 28, 2017, to consumers to be wary of charity scams when asked to donate.
“Do some research and ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised,” Colleen Tressler writes in the FTC alert.
Aside from risking that your donation won’t help the real victims who need it most, charity scams are also a gateway to identity theft. Think about it — as part of the donation, you’re likely sharing a whole lot of personal information that can be used to steal your identity, like your name, address, phone number, account numbers, security codes and more.
Remember, “A charity will not ask you to give your Social Security number, driver’s license number or bank account information when you donate,” according to this Identity Theft Resource Center article.
The FTC recommends using the following sites to check the non-profit and be sure it’s legitimate:
- Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance,
- Charity Navigator,
- Charity Watch, or
Be wary of any emails you receive requesting money. No matter how professional and official looking it might be, it could be a phishing scam. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team also issued an alert, warning “users to remain vigilant for malicious cyber activity seeking to capitalize on interest in Hurricane Harvey. Users are advised to exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source. Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites. Emails requesting donations from duplicitous charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.”
Other tips in the FTC alert include:
- Don’t assume a social media post about a charity is legitimate. Do your due diligence and research the organization before you click to donate to make sure it didn’t “spring up overnight.”
- Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
- When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.
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