The Better Business Bureau says 70 percent of Americans don’t check to find out where their donation money is going.
That’s important because when people help in a disaster, there’s people there to take advantage.
The U.S. Attorney General's office announced they’ve already received 550 Harvey-related complaints about suspected donation fraud in less than a week.
Roy Wright, National Flood Insurance Program director, said fake calls going target flood victims, asking them to make a payment to receive insurance money for their damaged homes.
“There were a series of robo calls going out that were trying to extort people, saying that if you did not make an additional payment your policy would be cancelled. This is fraud,” Wright said in a press conference.
Con artists will not only try to scam a victim, but they’ll come after your donation money as well.
The former director of the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud said, “Every year, when the National Weather Service released the names for that years’ storm, people starting registering the online domains so they can scam people.”
So, before Harvey even became a hurricane, someone already thought up the idea of stealing money.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the FBI investigated 15 fake websites that looked like legitimate Red Cross donation sites. Shortly after, the Justice Department created a special task force to crack down on storm-chaser scams. Over 1,400 people have been prosecuted for Katrina-related fraud since then.
In 2012, after Hurricane Sandy, over 1,000 fake websites were registered to raise money.
One charity, calling itself the Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort, raised over $600,000 for storm victims. But, in reality, only one percent of that money went to victims. The rest was used to pay off the con artists' credit card bills.
The Department of Justice released tips on fraudulent charitable contribution schemes.
Some tips include:
Be aware of anyone soliciting donations via social media, emails, websites, flyers and phone calls.
Do not respond to unsolicited emails asking you to click on a link that could contain a computer virus
A legitimate charity will never pressure you into making a donation.
Avoid cash donations or wiring money. Pay by card, but if you do pay by check, don’t write the check to an individual.
Most legitimate charities’ websites end in .org, not .com
Make sure a charity can provide proof the contribution is tax deductible.
A charity will never enter you into a sweepstakes to win a prize for donating.
Search then name of the organization online, by using the name of the organization and the word scam, to find reviews.
Do not provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity.
Ask yourself, did this charity suddenly pop up out of nowhere right after the disaster?