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Watch out for disaster scammers

Posted May 21, 2013

We all want to help, but please take care in making sure any groups you donate to are legitimate.

It’s hard to accept but the truth is while disasters tend to bring out the best in many people, they also bring out the worst in scammers! Here are a couple of links for what to watch out for and how you can help!

Avoid scams

  • Watch out for pushy telemarketers. Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you are usually up to no good. Also, some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money they collect for charities. Your money will go further if you give directly to the real charity, not to hired fundraisers.
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to give. Even if the message looks legitimate, it could be an example of phishing. The messages may include links to copycat web sites of legitimate charities to try to trick donors.
  • Be careful of social networking posts asking you to donate. The cause may sound worthy, but you have no way of verifying how your money would really be used.
  • Watch out for fake charities that sound real. Some scammers use names that are very close to the names of real charities, non-profits or even law enforcement agencies. If you want to donate, contact the real charity or organization at a website or phone number you know to be valid.
  • Don’t give cash. Cash gifts can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by credit card. If you pay by check, make it out to the charity itself, not the fundraiser.
  • Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you, for any reason.
  • Say no to high-pressure appeals. Legitimate fundraisers won’t push you to give on the spot.
  • If you want to give to charity, do your homework first. Visit www.give.org to see if national charities meet the standards set by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, and www.charitywatch.org for ratings of charities by the American Institute of Philanthropy. Other good sources of information are www.guidestar.org and www.charitynavigator.org.

Legitimate aid to Oklahoma

North Carolina-based charity Samaritan's Purse is sending volunteers to help with the response to the tornadoes in Moore and Shawnee, Okla. Two teams from North Carolina arrived Tuesday in Oklahoma to help with debris clean up, and more people are needed.

Volunteer with Samaritan's Purse

The American Red Cross is providing food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas.

You can designate a donation to help with its response to the deadly tornado that ravaged Moore, Okla. Monday, May 20, 2013.

Call 1-800-RED-CROSS, visit RedCross.org or text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 to the organization. The charge will be added to your next cellphone bill.

American Red Cross tornado relief

To assist the Salvation Army, text "STORM" to 8088.

Salvation Army Oklahoma tornado relief

Text "FOOD" to 32333 for donations to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

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  • nurse2b4me May 22, 2013

    Are there any locations in Fayetteville accepting clothing donations for the tornado victims? We attempted to take 6 full trash bags to Red Cross but they and the Salvation Army are only accepting monetary donations.

  • superman May 21, 2013

    Dont give out your credit card information to anyone including your family. If you use your credit card on the internet--use Pay Pal. They are reliable and none of your credit card info is given to the company or organization. Every time you use your credit card on-line you are adding the possiblity of it being sold or the company does not have a secure computer that can be hackled. The fewer companies that actually have your credit card the less likley there will be credit card fraud.

  • albegadeep May 21, 2013

    Remember that if someone calls you, saying they're from a certain charity, you don't have a way to verify it. Ask for a mailed brochure, or go find the official website yourself. DON'T give out a credit card number on the phone unless YOU called THEM - you have no idea who is really on the other end of the line!

About this Blog:

In addition to the stories you see on TV, Monica is always looking for ways to help consumers find deals and avoid fraud. She'll blog about what you need to know here.