There is always the potential for disaster fraud following a natural disaster, and the recent calamity in Nepal is certain to bring out a number of scammers.
Suspected fraudulent activity associated with that April earthquake should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud on their toll-free hotline, 866-720-5721. The hotline is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week,
Many people understandably feel moved to contribute to victim assistance programs and organizations to help those in need. Before doing so, members of the public should think twice and apply due diligence before giving money to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims.
Solicitations can originate either as e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods.
Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines such as the following:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited, spam-type incoming e-mails, and don’t click on links contained in those messages because they may contain computer viruses.
- Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations by e-mail or on social networking sites.
- Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
- Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by using Internet-based resources.
- Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
- Do not be pressured into making contributions. Reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
- Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
- Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com.