Beware of Hurricane Victim Relief Scams

September 8, 2017

by UNH Information Security Services

As Houston continues to deal with the damage left by Harvey and Florida prepares for the arrival of Irma, it is easy to want to do what you can to help those impacted by these disasters.  However, before you open your wallet or log in to your PayPal account, make sure you know who you are giving to, and that you are only giving what you intend to give.

The awful truth is that natural disasters cause spikes in charity fraud.  These criminals will go to great lengths to get you to give them your money including the creation of fake social media accounts, websites, and anything else it takes to convince you of their legitimacy.  And they aren’t always just after your money.  You may be putting your finances at risk by disclosing personal information (like credit card numbers) as well.

Follow the recommendations below from the FTC and the FBI to ensure the money you give goes to those who need it most.

  • Donate to charities you know and trust.  If you have never heard of the charity soliciting a donation, do your research before contributing by visiting the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving AllianceCharity NavigatorCharity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Alternatively, donate to a well-known charity that offers disaster relief. 
  • Be skeptical of social media posts asking for donations.
  • Do not respond to an unsolicited e-mail asking for a donation.
  • Likewise, do not click on any links or open attachments from an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Make donations with credit cards or checks made out to a specific organization. Avoid using cash or pre-paid cards.
  • Check to make sure the charity is registered in your state. Often, the state will list this information on its official website.

If you are the victim of charity fraud or any other online scam, report it to the FBI. Reports can be filed online at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) or by calling your FBI local office.

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