All kinds of fundraising efforts have popped up since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and it’s likely to there will be some scammers who want to take advantage of those looking to help. The spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General, Geoff Greenwood, says you should be cautious in making donations.
“Generally speaking, be very careful of solicitations for flood victims. Make sure you understand what organization is soliciting those funds,” Greenwood says.
Greenwood says scammers can use names that sound like legitimate organizations, especially if they call you. “Make sure that you understand who is soliciting these funds. If you are not sure — wait and find out more about what the organization is and how they use the money,” Greenwood says. “Do a little bit of digging and make sure that you don’t respond right away to a cold call without knowing who it is on the other side of the phone.”
He says don’t give out your credit card number during a phone call unless you are confident the organization is legitimate.
“It’s very hard sometimes to know exactly who is on the other end of that line. So we urge you to use an address or a number that you know is legitimate — whether you got it off the internet or whether you got it from a phone book — and proactively make that donation,” according to Greenwood. Greenwood says you shouldn’t scammers take advantage of your desire to help others.
“We all want to do something to help, and we urge you to help,” Greenwood explains. “But we also urge you to make sure that you know who you are doing business with when you make a donation to help flood victims.” Greenwood says you can ask the caller directly what their organization is and where the money will go. He says a little time to research your donation will help ensure it actually getst to the people in need.
If you suspect a disaster relief effort is fraudulent, contact the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926 or toll-free at 888-777-4590 (outside the Des Moines metro area only), email firstname.lastname@example.org or file a complaint at iowaattorneygeneral.gov.
Tips for Giving Wisely
–Know who you are giving to. Give to established and familiar organizations. While many pop-up relief efforts may be legitimate, others may provide relatively small amounts of donations to those who need them, or may even be outright scams. Be watchful for sound-alike organizations.
–Be wary of callers seeking donations. Don’t give to someone who calls you unless you are certain the caller represents an organization you are familiar with. Scammers can spoof caller ID to fake the information that appears on your display. Using a credit card, versus a debit card, provides you with additional consumer protections. Avoid using a pre-paid money card or wiring money, and do not provide gift card numbers.
–Be wary of emails and social media posts seeking donations. If you receive an email seeking a donation, be careful about clicking on links or attachments, which could contain malicious software (malware). Scammers can direct you to fake websites that look legitimate but are not. It’s best to go to that organization’s known website if you plan to donate online.
–Avoid providing cash to someone who shows up at your door. Ask to see the person’s identification, and don’t let someone pressure you into allowing him or her inside or into you making a donation on the spot. It’s best to let the person know you will consider donating directly to the organization. If you decide to donate through that person, ask for a receipt. If you feel uncomfortable about the situation, call law enforcement.
–Be cautious about crowdfunding. There are legitimate online crowdfunding disaster relief efforts, but there are also ones to avoid. Treat a crowdfunding effort like you would treat a donation jar placed next to a cash register-make sure you understand the person or organization behind it, exactly how your