Support disaster victims but steer clear of scams, says AG
Release date: 9/1/2005
Raleigh: Attorney General Cooper today encouraged North Carolinians to give generously to help victims of Hurricane Katrina but to watch out for scammers seeking to pocket our charitable donations.
“Our hearts go out to the people who’ve been hit so hard by Hurricane Katrina. Here in North Carolina, we know what it’s like to recover from a terrible storm and we want to help,” said Cooper. “It’s tragic that there are scammers out there who want to take advantage of our generosity and deprive those who are suffering of the help they so desperately need.”
To make sure your donations go to relief efforts and not to scammers’ pockets, Cooper recommends the following tips:
Know how to spot a fraud. Telemarketers who try to play on emotions, refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you for a credit card number are usually up to no good. If you suspect telemarketing fraud, let Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division know by calling (877)-5-NO-SCAM. If you get a call from an unknown telemarketer, never share your credit card or bank account number.
Contact the charity directly; don't respond to appeals over the phone or via email. Scammers are already sending out “phishing” emails that claim to come from the Red Cross, trying to steal your money and your identity. Don’t take the bait. Instead, contact charities directly to make a donation.
Ask where your money will go and how it will help. To get more detailed financial information about a charity, call the Secretary of State’s office toll-free at (888) 830-4989 or take a look at a charity’s financial statement by visiting the website www.guidestar.org. You can also find out whether nationally soliciting charities meet the standards set by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance by visiting the website www.give.org.
Choose charities with a proven track record of disaster relief work. Charities such as the American Red Cross, United Way and the Salvation Army are examples of organizations that have experience in helping communities recover from disasters.
“Unfortunately, some shameless scammers will try to use the real victims of recent disasters to make their pleas for phony charities sound more plausible,” Cooper said. “Take the time to make sure your donation will go where you intend—to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, not to crooks and scam artists.”