Make Your Hurricane Donations Count: Avoid Being Swindled by Scammers


With heartbreaking images of devastations caused by hurricanes and other major natural disasters, many compassionate consumers rush to help financially. With the outpouring of generosity, scammers go into full swing to take advantage of such tragic events for their personal gain. These fraudsters not only rob donors of their money and personal information, but they divert contributions from legitimate charities.

Charity scammers use a variety of tactics. Some operate bogus charities that contact consumers by telephone, email or text to solicit money or financial information. Others impersonate well-known charities. Follow these tips to donate wisely and avoid being swindled.

1. Donate to charities you know. Avoid charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.

2. Check out the charity. Take a second and google the charity. Then, review reports by the following watchdogs:

Better Business Bureau’s Wise Given Alliance

Charity Navigator

Charity Watch

GuideStar

These organizations assist donors in making sound giving decisions.

3. Give directly. Avoid paying through a paid fundraiser. Professional fundraisers get a percentage of your donation, sometimes 50% or more.

4. Avoid cash donations. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Don’t make checks payable to individuals.

5. Don’t be pressured. Reputable charities don’t use high-pressure tactics such as urging you to donate immediately.

6. Be careful about providing personal and financial information. Providing information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

If you think that you have been contacted by a fraudster, make sure to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling 866-720-5721 or e-mailing disaster@leo.gov.

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Ruth is the founder of Jackson Lee | PA, a consumer law firm recognized for slaying the toughest legal issues. In addition to being an attorney and wife of one, she's a mom to four future world-changers. Drop Ruth a line at ruth@jacksonleepa.com.

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