Scammers love using instances of crisis to take advantage of consumers and steal their money and personal information. That is exactly what they are doing after a Navy ship caught fire. As reported by Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)  partner, the Federal Trade Commission, fake crowdfunding pages have been created as part of a charitable giving scam, after a fire destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard and sailors lost all their possessions.

Who is it Targeting: Consumers wanting to help sailors in need after the USS Bonhomme Richard fire

What is it: A giving scam using crowdsource funding pages to take advantage of the crisis

What Are They After: The charitable giving scam employs fake crowdsource funding pages to steal people’s money instead of putting it towards the sailors impacted by the USS Bonhomme Richard fire. However, there is no way of knowing whether the money makes it to the sailors in need. Also, scammers can steal people’s personal information, like their credit card number or bank account information, to target them with future scams or, depending on what information the scammers get, commit identity theft and fraud.

How You Can Avoid It: Don’t rely on crowdsource funding pages to make legitimate donations. Crowdsource funding pages make it impossible to know whether the donations make it to the recipient. Always do research and only donate to known and trustworthy charities. Learn more about how to check out a charity before giving at https://www.ftc.gov/charity.

If people have questions regarding charitable giving scams, they are encouraged to contact the ITRC through the website to live-chat with an expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Bitcoin scams come in many different forms. Scammers use different platforms to try and get people to pay them in bitcoin (also known as cryptocurrency or digital money). Bitcoin scams are a popular way for fraudsters to trick people into sending money. Recently, they used Twitter and some of its most notable accounts to target Twitter users.

On July 15, hackers compromised verified Twitter accounts and sent cryptocurrency scam tweets requesting bitcoin donations with the promise of doubling the investments to “give back to the community.” Scammers responsible for bitcoin scams not only aim to steal people’s money, but also collect their personally identifiable information (PII) and sell it to other cybercriminals.

According to Twitter, attackers are believed to have targeted certain Twitter employees through a social engineering scheme. Twitter says the attackers successfully manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems, including getting through their two-factor protections. While Twitter continues their forensic review, they believe the bad actors may have attempted to sell some of the usernames. The hackers are not believed to have viewed previous account passwords. However, they were able to view personal information, including email addresses and phone numbers.

Twitter says nearly 130 accounts were targeted, and 45 successfully hacked. The Twitter accounts hacked include high profile individuals with verified accounts such as Barak Obama, Kanye West, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Twitter responded by preventing any blue-check marked accounts from tweeting while security teams responded to the attack. Twitter apologized for the attack; the UK’s National Cyber Security Center, whom Twitter officers reached out to for support, released a statement urging people to treat requests for money or PII on social media with extreme caution.

The recent social-engineering hijack of Twitter accounts highlights a larger issue that has been on the increase since COVID-19 began: the prevalence of cryptocurrency scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, most bitcoin scams appear as emails trying to blackmail someone, online chain-referral schemes or bogus investment/business opportunities. However, no matter how the scam is executed, a scammer wants the victim to either send money, give-up their PII or a combination of these. Once someone engages, there is usually nothing they can do to get their money back.

The Twitter hack creates a teachable moment – what should consumers do to reduce their risk of falling for a bitcoin scam? It also highlights the need for businesses to ensure their employees are educated on social engineering. This incident proves that even the most technologically-advanced companies are not immune from an employee granting access to bad actors. To avoid a bitcoin scam or other forms of social engineering, people should remember the following:

  • Never share PII through social media channels and always verify the person or business asking. While these scams are designed to steal people’s money, they are also designed to collect PII to sell to other cybercriminals.
  • If someone sees a tweet, email, text message or other social media post that asks for payment in bitcoin, it is – most likely – a scam.
  • High profile individuals will not contact anyone to give away large sums of money – especially in bitcoin – by social media message. There are other methods for informing someone if they are a recipient; if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If a consumer receives a message telling him or her it’s a guarantee to make money, it is probably a scam.
  • No one should ever click a link, download a file or open an attachment if they are unsure of who sent it or what it is; they should be cautious of links that are shared on social media.
  • Keep up with the latest around scams and how they work. The Twitter bitcoin scam employed a lot of common cognitive biases. Understanding how bitcoin or cryptocurrency works reduces the number of people who fall for scams about it.

If someone believes they are a victim of a bitcoin scam or has questions about other scams, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Is This an Amazon Brushing Scam?

Third-party sellers on Amazon are buying their own products so they can leave five-star reviews, then using victims’ names and addresses to disguise themselves as customers. 

Who Is It Targeting: Amazon customers

What Is It: Brushing scam that uses another person’s information to place fake orders

What Are They After: This Amazon brushing scam is tricky because while victims are not charged for the goods that appear on their doorstep, being a victim still means that someone has gained access to your name, mailing address, and other information. Some people may not think of this as being victims of a scam, but there is no way of knowing what else these scammers could be doing with your personal data.

In a post on Reddit, one user randomly received a weeding tool and posted to understand what he received in the mail by mistake, unknowing it was part of a brushing scam.

Image of Reddit.com

Another Reddit user let the original poster alerted them to the possibility of this being a scam and referred them back to our resources for assistance.

How Can You Avoid It: If you begin receiving packages that are addressed to you but you did not order, contact the retailer immediately. Change your passwords on your online accounts, just in case the scammer got your address by hacking an account.

According to The Verge, Amazon will start disclosing the names and addresses of US-based third-party sellers on its Marketplace platform as part of an effort to fight counterfeiters. The company announced the change in a note sent to sellers on Wednesday, and goes into effect on September 1st.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or an Amazon brushing scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here.


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Mystery shopping has been around for a long time. Mystery shoppers help businesses, retailers and restaurants get information on the quality of their stores in exchange for money. In the past, scammers have found ways to turn the service into a mystery shopper scam, also known as a secret shopper scam. These scams are resurfacing during the coronavirus due to over 45 million people filing for unemployment and looking for some extra cash.

There are different forms of mystery shopper scams. One popular version of the scam is when scammers pose as retailers looking to lure people into being secret shoppers. They ask victims to pay for their products or training and then take off with their money. Fraudsters will also steal a victim’s personally identifiable information (PII) from the application they filled out and commit identity theft.

Another version of the mystery shopper scam includes fake checks. In this scam, the victim signs up to become a secret shopper through an online form – potentially giving away sensitive PII like Social Security numbers, date of birth and address. Then the victim is sent a check in the mail to use to secretly shop at a store. Once the check is posted to their bank account, the victim begins to shop as instructed. In some instances, the victim is told to buy reloadable cards and send pictures of them and their PIN card numbers from the back. Once the bank finds out the check is fake, the victim is on the hook for all of the money that they spent plus bank fees. This particular version of the scam lures victims in with a fake check, like the one pictured below that was sent to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) from a mystery shopper scam victim:

At first glance the check appears to be legitimate. However, while the check says it is to PNC bank, the routing number is for HSBC. Hanover Insurance Company also has a notice on their website about fraudulent checks.

The ITRC was also sent this letter that went along with the check:

While the letter also seems legitimate at first glance, the company listed is Assign Retailer Metrics Inc. instead of Hanover Insurance Company. The letter also asks people to take pictures of the card numbers and scratched PIN numbers and email them to a Gmail account instead of a company account. These are just a few signs that prove this is a secret shopper scam.

Mystery shoppers can be very effective for retailers because the secret shopper can buy whatever the retailer wants them to buy and then report back their experience. However, it can leave consumers looking for a way to make a little extra money in the difficult economy vulnerable to being taken advantage of by ne’er-do-wells. There are things people can do to reduce their risk of falling for a mystery shopper scam.

To avoid these types of scams, people should:

  • Never pay to be a mystery shopper – don’t wire money or  send a “deposit” via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle
  • Do NOT give out PII on an application
  • Be wary if offered a lot of money for a simple task
  • Cash the check at an issuing bank or wait until the money has not just posted but cleared the other account; if the check is not good, the victim can return the cash into their account

There are also things people can do to spot a legitimate mystery shopping opportunity. People should:

  • Do their research on legitimate opportunities; search the internet for reviews and comments on mystery shopping jobs
  • Remember they are paid to be a mystery shopper (typically after the task is completed); they do not have to pay to do it

Anyone who believes they are a victim of a mystery shopper scam can live-chat with an ITRC expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530. Advisors will guide victims on the next steps they need to take.


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A recent Google Alert scam has caught the attention of many. Google Alerts recently caught fraudsters trying to push fake data breach notifications for big-name companies in an effort to distribute malware and damage people’s computer networks. According to Bleeping Computer, fraudsters have been mixing black-hat SEO, Google sites and spam pages to direct users to dangerous locations based on data breach information.

Google Alerts is designed to send notifications to people who sign up for specific keywords monitoring and provide search results. As part of this Google Alert scam, fraudsters were able to create pages and use compromising websites to combine “data breach” with well-known brands. Bleeping Computer reports that some of those well-known brands include Chegg, Canva, EA, Dropbox, Hulu, Shein, Ceridian, PayPalTarget, Hautelook, Mojang, InterContinental Hotel Group and Houzz.

In the Google Alerts, fraudsters offer giveaways and download offers, which leads to the dangerous malware. The threat actors are also believed to have used the Google Sites tool to build webpages to host their content. Bleeping Computer says they found that the scammers were pushing unwanted search-related extensions. As part of the Google Alert scam, malicious links were also believed to be sent to people with an iPhone 11 device for a fake giveaway. It claimed to be set up by Google as part of a “Membership Rewards Program” and the offer said the gift was “exclusively and only for Verizon Fios users.” Users had to fill out a survey, allowing scammers to get their money. Browser extension scams can pose a risk to browsing privacy because malware can be used as part of this method.

Consumers who use Google Alerts should be aware of this particular scam; going directly to the source (the purported breached entity) instead of clicking on an unknown link. The Identity Theft Resource Center has been tracking publicly-notified data breaches since 2005 and has the most comprehensive and the most readily available data breach information for publicly-notified breaches. For any consumer that wants to fact check about the latest information regarding a publicly reported breach is encouraged to access our resources to confirm any new circumstances. Consumers can sign up for the monthly data breach newsletter, as well as view monthly and yearly data breach reports. They can also receive a “risk score” on what their true concerns should be by visiting Breach Clarity and entering the particular breach on which they would like information. Anyone who believes they might have fallen victim to a Google Alert scam can live-chat with an ITRC expert advisor, or can call toll-free at 888.400.5530. They can also download the free ID Theft Help App. The app will provide consumers and victims access to advisors, resources, a case log to track their steps and much more.


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WATCH OUT FOR 2020 SUMMER SCAMS

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Summer has arrived, and usually that signals summer vacations, fun in the sun and time to enjoy summertime events. With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting people in many ways, some summer plans will look different. It won’t stop scammers from targeting victims, but 2020 summer scams could have a different spin than summer scams in years past.

Employment Scams

Typically, employment scams are a hot summer scam because teachers, school transportation drivers, high school/college students and residents of resort areas look to make some extra money in the summer months. While that may end up still being the case, employment scams could be a 2020 summer scam because over 40 million people are unemployed due to COVID-19 and areas are now loosening restrictions.

Some telltale signs that a job might not be genuine include high hourly rates for minimal work, requirements to pay for supplies and materials, offers that request consumers to provide their sensitive identity credentials (driver’s license or Social Security number) to apply and offers that contain misspellings, vague information or links to click and software to download.

Loyalty Account Scams

Travel is usually at its peak in the summer months as families and friends embark on their vacation plans. However, travel is down due to the coronavirus and it is unknown how many people will be willing to take the risks associated with traveling. That is why scammers may attack loyalty accounts.

A popular 2020 summer scam could end up preying on loyalty accounts because people are not flying and staying at hotels. If anyone receives a message regarding a loyalty account, they should ignore it and reach out to the proper company directly. However, scammers could still strike with too-good-to-be-true offers or create fake websites and steal photos of real properties to lure in their victims. Travelers should avoid any high-pressure (i.e. “Book NOW to receive”) opportunities or messages about their accounts and investigate thoroughly before proceeding.

Moving Scams

Summer is a popular time to move, whether it is recent graduates or families waiting for their kids to finish the school year. Moving scams can still strike at any time. That means moving scams may make a resurgence as a popular 2020 summer scam. There are many different types of moving scams, but some of them involve taking information including PII and payment card information; hidden fees and companies that change their names to circumvent bad reviews.

Ticket Scams

Outdoor concerts, music festivals and big-name concert tours are great summer fun. Ticket scams could be a popular 2020 summer scam. Not because there will be concerts, music festivals and sporting events going on, but because sports and other outdoor activities have many unknowns regarding how ticket sales and refunds will work. Scammers can take advantage of the confusion by overcharging for an event through a fake website that steals people’s information and selling a fake ticket. Scammers have sent messages previously regarding ticket refunds with links to click or files to download. People should only purchase tickets from trusted retailers. If anyone gets a message they are not expecting about a ticket sale or refund, they should ignore it and contact the retailer directly.

Social Media Scams

People’s Facebook accounts and Instagram accounts are also a target when the weather turns warm. Everything from romance scammers and phishing attempts to burglars who scope out who is not home based on their posts can lead to harm. COVID-19 romance scams are already making the rounds and scammers could continue to use that tactic.

People should be mindful of what they post online. Also, they should beware of friend requests from accounts they do not recognize or requests from people they thought they were already connected with (i.e., hacked or spoofed accounts). Finally, people should make sure they are not oversharing or giving away too many details to anyone who can see them. Remember, there are things on social media accounts that could be used to determine the challenge questions for other more sensitive accounts (date of birth, pet’s name, mother’s maiden name, etc.).

If anyone falls for a summer scam or potentially self-compromises their identity information, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor that will help guide them through the next steps to take. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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State and local governments around the country are working hard on plans, and in some cases, starting to execute, to carefully reopen their communities and businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data is being tracked; task forces are mobilizing and planning; and the “new normal” is beginning to take shape. However, this could lead to an increase in reopening job scams.

More jobs could be a welcomed sight for over 40 million U.S. workers who have had to file for unemployment benefits since mid-March. Some consumers expect to return to their old jobs. However, many others will be looking for a new one.

According to a survey issued by FlexJobs, 19 percent of respondents reported that they have already been victimized by an employment scam. The company further stated that for every legitimate work-from-home job—a highly sought-after option during the pandemic—there are between sixty and seventy scam offers. Out of concern for consumers, as they seek employment, the FBI is warning the public about reopening job scams or fake job offers that would ordinarily raise some red flags if not for the specific changes that quarantine has required.

The FBI says they have seen an uptick in fake job and hiring scams with cybercriminals posing as legitimate employers by spoofing company websites and posting fake job openings on popular online job boards. One of the scams involves fraudsters going as far as conducting false interviews with applicants, then requesting personal information or money that could be transferred to a private location. The Better Business Bureau told FOX 13 in Memphis that fraudsters are using the COVID-19 pandemic in their employment scams to make them more believable.

Fortunately, much of the same caution that applied to job-seeking before COVID-19 still applies. Consumers should know the source of the job listing and only use reputable websites to find employment opportunities. To avoid a reopening job scam, consumers should also be mindful of unsolicited emails and offers with outrageous claims—such as, “Earn $3,000 a week working from home.”

Once a job posting is found, consumers should also be careful about how much personal data they share, at least during the application period. If a company claims they want to do a phone, Skype or Zoom interview due to social distancing and safety, that’s okay. However, it does not mean candidates should turn over information like their Social Security numbers until they have been hired.

Finally, to avoid a job reopening scam, consumers should remember that legitimate jobs don’t usually require any upfront fees or costs. Even things like company uniforms or specialized equipment such as steel-toed shoes are often deducted from the first paycheck or purchased by the employee through an outside company. Typically, they are not charged in the form of a payment. If an employer asks for a finder’s fee, administrative fee, background check fee or any other funds, it is probably a reopening job scam. Even for legitimate actions like submitting a bank account number and routing number for direct depositing of paychecks, it’s important to be sure the company is legitimate and the job has already been awarded before submitting the information. If someone believes they are victim to a COVID-19 reopening job scam, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Contact tracing scams have begun to pick up steam with the evolving technology coming closer to becoming a reality. Some of those scams include hackers and fraudsters posing as contact tracers – both online and in person – trying to steal personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI) and other personal data.

The United States began the re-opening process after the COVID-19 pandemic closed many aspects of daily life. That is expected to include many precautions to keep people safe, including contact tracing – a method used to find the people who may have come into contact with someone infected with COVID-19. In fact, many people anticipate contact tracing will play a large part in keeping people informed of their risk of exposure until a vaccine is available.

Apple and Google are cooperating to ensure the different phone operating systems are compatible for contact tracing purposes. Apple and Google are also working with health departments across the country to figure out how to roll-out an effective contact tracing Bluetooth-based system that would allow public health departments to create their own contact tracing apps. Despite doubts from some health officials on how useful Apple and Google’s optional systems will be, the two tech companies have developed the digital contact tracing system, and have included it in their latest software updates. Contact tracing apps have already rolled out in other countries. According to MIT Technology Review, so far, there are 25 contact tracing efforts globally. However, none of those apps work in the U.S. Consumers should beware of any attempt to entice them or someone else to download and register for an app.

While app development efforts continue, scammers are tricking people into contact tracing scams using fake apps that steal their personal information. The Better Business Bureau of Connecticut warns people about text messages in their area that appear to be linked to COVID-19 contact tracing, alerting people that they were near someone who tested positive for coronavirus. Police in Washington state are alerting residents of contact tracing scams going around trying to steal sensitive information, including credit card information and Social Security numbers. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District urges residents not to fall for contact tracing scams, adding that they will never alert people of a positive test via text.

In all of these scams, fraudsters are trying to steal people’s personal information, whether it is by trying to get them to click on unknown malicious links or simply asking for them to provide it. Hackers then have the ability to turn right around and sell the information, which could lead to identity theft. Even when legitimate apps are available, users should check to see if the data they share will be used for marketing purposes without their permission or sold for other purposes.

To avoid a contact tracing scam, people should stay informed on the latest contact tracing details, as well as the most up-to-date COVID-19 information from their state and local health departments. Local health departments will inform people of what a legitimate contact tracer will ask and any protocols they will follow. If anyone gets a text or notification they are not expecting that they were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they should ignore it and call their local health department to confirm the validity of the message. They should not provide any information they are asked for, nor should they click any links, open any attachments or download any files.

If anyone believes they have fallen victim to a contact tracing scam or is a victim of identity theft, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530. An advisor can help victims create an action plan on the steps they need to take that are customized to their needs.


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While people continue to take protective measures in order to avoid COVID-19, some groups are actively working harder. It’s not just the essential workers, healthcare workers or first responders. Unfortunately, scammers are also putting in overtime to take advantage of the current situation.

Recent reports of quarantine-based scams have included unemployment benefits identity theft, IRS stimulus check scams, and now dating app scams and COVID-19 romance scams. While these have always been a known threat, newsworthy events like the COVID-19 pandemic often lead to an increase in scam activity. Scammers are increasing the amount of romance scams with more people on dating apps due to isolation. Also, scammers are changing their stories to include COVID-19. Fortunately, while the other virus-related scams may be hard to spot due to the fact that they are based on actual current events, avoiding a COVID-19 romance scam might be a little bit easier.

It is important that consumers know the signs:

  1. A plausible reason why the person is reaching out to strangers. Even before the virus, the reason usually had to do with boredom and isolation, which are abundant right now.
  2. A job or location that prevents them from communicating on a regular basis. Again, before the virus, those jobs often included occupations like off-shore oil rig worker, deep-sea fishing boat captain or deployed soldier. Due to COVID-19, it is just as easy to blame the virus, especially if the person claims to be a hospital worker, medic or another essential employee.
  3. A sympathetic story. While a lonely, deployed soldier story is prone to tug at the victim’s heartstrings, an EMT, nurse or doctor who just needs someone to talk to as they attempt to process the horrors of frontline medical work could be viewed as a more sympathetic story.
  4. The request for money. The sympathy mentioned above goes directly into the request for funds. Right now there are probably a lot of people who would help a nurse or medic purchase masks and gloves, and who has not heard the reports of price gouging and scarcity. If the scammer poses as an out-of-work employee, a victim might help a single parent buy groceries for their child.
  5. The cat-and-mouse game. Romance scams are a vicious cycle of flattery and compliments combined with plausible requests for money. Following through with the money earns the victim even more of the attention they crave. Hesitating or refusing earns them the silent treatment.

In order for consumers to protect themselves from COVID-19 romance scams and other scams, consumers have to be aware of the threat and spot the telltale signs. Romance scams rely on a formulaic model, namely an individual who reaches out on social media, via text message or some other electronic method. They begin a lengthy, personal conversation, one that contains an extremely high, frequent amount of discussion. Within days, they begin making statements such as, “I’ve never felt this way about anyone,” or “I know this is sudden, but I can really see us having a future together.”

Within a short period of “grooming” the victim with promises of visits and even marriage, the story crops up. One example could be a story about a terrible incident that has occurred and the scammer even has the funds to fix it, but they cannot access their money in time to fix the issue. The scammer may ask the victim to pay the money with the promise that they will be paid back immediately. From there, more requests for money could follow, even as the scammer continues to string along victims with promises of long-term relationships.

Remember, there is no plausible excuse why someone would need to reach out for money from someone they have not met in person. People should protect themselves from these and other scams by learning to spot the warning signs and distancing themselves if any red flags appear. If anyone believes they are a victim of a COVID-19 romance scam, they can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center to live chat with an expert advisor. If they do not have internet access, they can call toll-free at 888.400.5530. 

When any disaster or crisis – including the current global pandemic – occurs, people jump into action to help those impacted by the event. Scammers choose to take advantage of that giving spirit, which is why many people are susceptible to charitable giving scams in times of crisis. Scammers look to take advantage of other’s good deeds and turn it into a personal gain for themselves – both financially and by getting access to personally identifiable information.

That is exactly what has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to Dayton Daily News, scammers have been going door-to-door in Dayton, Ohio posing as The Dayton Foundation. Scammers have been trying to sell coupon books that claim people’s donations will go towards the fight against COVID-19. It is one of many charitable giving scams.

However, there are things people can do to reduce their risk of falling for a charitable giving scam.

1. When giving to any non-profit, people should only give to trusted sources. This way they will know their donation will not fall into the hands of a scammer. If someone does not recognize the name of a charity that is soliciting funds, they should be cautious.

2. Legitimate donations can be made on a cell-phone. However, scammers can also send out texts that look real. People should find the charity they want to donate to and initiate the contact.

3. People should do their research before giving. Charities can be investigated through the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

Independent charity evaluator, The Charity Navigator, has also compiled a list of ways to make sure people’s donations are going to a real charity.

The Federal Trade Commission has also recommended people conduct Google searches like “best charity” or “highly-rated charity” to help decipher the real ones from the fake ones.

4. People should ask the charities for information about their mission, goals and history – including requesting their 990-form. If they are unable to answer those questions, they are probably part of a charitable giving scam. Any legitimate non-profit organization should be able to answer people’s questions about their organization and their giving guidelines.

5. Donors should beware of the scammer’s tricks. They will often try to rush people to make their donations and will use names that are similar to existing charities. Fake organizations might also try to tell people their donation is tax-deductible when it is not.

If people have questions regarding charitable giving scams, they are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center through the website to live chat with an expert advisor.

For those that cannot access the website, they can call the toll-free hotline (888.400.5530) and leave a message for an advisor. While the advisors are working remotely, there may be a delay in responding but someone will provide assistance as quickly as possible.


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