Watch for charity scams following severe weather, warns AG Cooper
Release date: 5/1/2014
Scammers known to pose as charities after disasters
Raleigh: States across the South and Midwest suffered tornadoes and flooding in recent days, and many North Carolinians want to help those hurt by the storms. But make sure any money you donate goes to real victims rather than scam artists, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Thursday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these powerful storms, but scammers are only thinking about how to rip you off,” Cooper said. “Don’t let phony charities divert your money from those who really need it.”
While Cooper’s office has not yet received complaints about fraudulent fundraising efforts following recent severe weather, previous disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes have spawned such scams.
The rise of online crowdfunding sites that allow people to raise money for causes and projects adds a new wrinkle for those who want to make sure their donations are used as they intended.
Before donating to a crowdfunded project, Cooper’s office encourages consumers to know who and what they’re really donating to. When information about tragedies is made public, such as the names of recent tornado victims, scammers may use it to try to solicit donations –and the funds may or may not end up with the actual victims.
Authorities in other states have already reported seeing fundraising efforts spring up in victims’ names started by people who are unknown to the victims and their families. North Carolina law requires that a charity get permission before raising funds in a person’s name, among other requirements to prevent fraud.
Consumers should also ask how much of their donation will go to the crowdfunding site rather than the cause itself. Those who are considering raising money through a crowdfunding site should find out what percentage of funds the site will keep, and how and when the funds will be disbursed to them.
Cooper encouraged North Carolinians to give generously to those in need but to watch for charity scams.
“Please consider helping those in need if you’re able to, but make sure your donation goes where you intend it to,” Cooper said. “And if you suspect that a request to donate is a scam, report it to my office.”
To avoid scams and make sure your donations go to legitimate charities:
Watch out for pushy telemarketers. Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you are usually up to no good. Also, some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money they collect for charities. Your money will go further if you give directly to the real charity, not to hired fundraisers.
Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to give. Even if the message looks legitimate, it could be an example of phishing. The messages may include links to copycat web sites of legitimate charities to try to trick donors.
Be careful of social networking posts asking you to donate. The cause may sound worthy, but you have no way of verifying how your money would really be used.
Watch out for fake charities that sound real. Some scammers use names that are very close to the names of real charities, non-profits or even law enforcement agencies. If you want to donate, contact the real charity or organization at a website or phone number you know to be valid.
Don’t give cash. Cash gifts can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by credit card. If you pay by check, make it out to the charity itself, not the fundraiser.
Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you, for any reason.
Say no to high-pressure appeals. Legitimate fundraisers won’t push you to give on the spot.
Consumers can report potential scams to the Attorney General’s office by calling 1-877- 5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint
Contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413