The typhoon that recently swept through the Philippines has left a path of devastation in its wake. Thousands were killed, and hundreds of thousands are left homeless, hurt, and without food or shelter. In the aftermath of such a tragedy it is human nature to want to lend a helping hand. Many people around the world have contributed money and supplies to numerous charities who are lending a hand to those in need.

Unfortunately, there are some people who would exploit this good will and try to use this tragedy to their own advantage. Sadly, scam artists are posing as charitable organizations online, on the phone, and even in person in order to prey on people’s good intentions and take their donations for themselves. In order to make sure that you are not scammed, here are some basic rules to follow:

  1. Charitable organizations
    • Before you donate, do some research on the company you are donating to. Look them up with the Better Business Bureau or your state’s Attorney General’s office. Also, many news stations keep a public list of known charities who are participating in the relief effort on their websites. If you are looking for a place to donate to, these lists might be a good place to start.
  2. Websites 
    • If you are donating online make sure you are on the actual charity’s website. Do not trust links from other sites. 
    • Be on the lookout for sites that look like a reputable charity’s site. Scam artists make sites look like real sites in order to trick potential victims. Make sure the URL is the correct one before you donate.
    • A charity will not ask you to give your social security number, driver’s license number or bank account information when you donate.
    •  Most reputable charities will allow you to donate via credit card or a third party service like PayPal. They usually do not ask for a direct transfer or a Green Dot card number. If the charity you are looking to donate to asks for this information, it may be a scam.
    • Make sure the URL of the website you are on starts with https://. The “s” means that it is secure. Also, look for a picture of a padlock either at the top or the bottom of the web browser. Both of these need to be present in order to know the site is not exposed to hackers.
  3. Phone Calls
    •  Most reputable charities do not call people asking for donations.
    •  Find out the name of the company and look them up before donating. Most reputable charities have websites and entries with the Better Business Bureau. They also usually have ways to donate online. You can tell the person on the phone that if they are a legitimate charity that you will donate through their website or the phone number listed on the site.
    •  Do not allow them to guilt you into giving information over the phone. Some scam artists will get very pushy and try to make you feel bad. Don’t give into it. It is better to be safe, than to give up your information to the wrong person.
    • Do not trust Caller ID. The numbers and the location can be changed by a computer program to whatever the caller wants it to say.
  4. Personal Encounters
    • Many charities will set up public locations and events such as in malls, supermarket parking lots, and stadiums to help encourage people to donate. They may also go door to door.  Thieves have been known to do this, too.Make sure the charity volunteer you are speaking with is from a reputable charity. Many organizations (such as the Red Cross) will advertise when and where they have events.
    • Do not feel pressured into giving.  Sometimes thieves will try to guilt people into giving money by telling sad stories or by calling them names for not donating. Do not listen.
    • A charity will never ask you to give your social security number or driver’s license number when you donate.

And remember, when in doubt don’t do it. You may want to do the right thing, but it’s not worth your own safety to do it.  It is important for the public to feel empathy for victims of disasters and it is natural to want to help and we encourage you to do so.  However, make sure you do it in the safest way possible to avoid making any more victims of a tragic situation.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3

 

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