By Linda Vitale – Lead Trainer and Educator AARP Arizona Fraud Watch Network

While natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey brings out the best in people, it also brings out the worst in Scammers, who are quick to take advantage of any disaster.

The visuals of the hurricane’s devastation moved millions of people to want to help the survivors and families of the victims. Naturally people seek out a charity they can donate to.

Scammers will take full advantage of people’s generosity by posing as fake charities. But instead of collecting money to help hurricane victims, they’ll keep the money for themselves.

These evil-doers are already sending emails, text messages, mail solicitations, and will soon appear at your door asking for money, under false pretenses.  They will also create fake websites that will use similar charity names. These fake websites capture unsuspecting victims who innocently enter their credit card info to make a donation. Because you can never be sure whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not, be sure to follow the tips below:

IMPORTANT TIPS:

  • Go directly to the charity yourself. You can find the address of a charity’s website and either mail a check or go directly to the charity’s website (by typing in the website address yourself) and make your donation online.
  • Look for the padlock symbol and the website address to start with https, not just http. The “s” stands for a secure website. Also, realize that most charity websites will end in “.org”, not “.com”.  Be careful of making typos too.
  • Never ever click on links in an email, no matter how legitimate the email looks!
  • Be careful of what you see on your ‘Caller ID’. Most phone numbers are “spoofed” to look like the call is coming from a charity, when in fact, it’s a Scammer calling.
  • Telemarketers, who call you, when representing a charity, receive a commission for each donation they garner. So the lion’s share of your donation actually goes to the telemarketer instead of the charity. Besides, how can you be sure that the person calling you is from a legitimate charity?  You can’t!

To check out a charity, you should go to www.charitynavigator.org.  Their website helps you determine if a charity is legitimate. You can also learn how much of the money that a charity collects, actually goes to the people they are supposed to be helping.

Here are the names of a few charities that are providing assistance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey: Americares, International Relief Teams, Direct Relief, Global Giving, Save the Children and the American Red Cross.   Charity Navigator also provides a list of local organizations, who are lending a hand in the most affected areas. These organizations are providing support to people and animals right there in the local communities.

Linda Vitale is on a mission to empower and educate the public about Fraud, Scams and ID Theft.

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