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Beware of relief scams following Hurricane Sandy, warns AG Cooper

Release date: 10/31/2012

Scammers known to pose as charities following disasters

Raleigh:  Make sure any money you donate to storm relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy goes to real victims of the disaster rather than scam artists, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday.
 
“The lowest of the low use catastrophes like this to line their own pockets,” Cooper said.  “Don’t let phony charities divert your donations from those who really need our help."
 
Other natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Pacific Ocean tsunamis, and the earthquake in Haiti spawned scams that collected money that never reached the victims.  Similar scams are likely to follow Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, which caused damage and destruction across much of the east coast.
 
Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division has not yet received complaints from North Carolina consumers about fraudulent fundraising efforts following Hurricane Sandy, and Cooper encourages North Carolinians to give generously while watching out for possible scams. 
 
“We want to encourage people who are able to help those in need to do so, but do a little homework first so that your contributions can do the most good possible,” Cooper said. “And if you suspect that a request to donate is a scam, report it to my office.
 
Consumers can report potential charity scams to the Attorney General’s office by calling 1-877- 5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint at www.ncdoj.gov.
 
To avoid scams and make sure your donations go to legitimate charities:
 
  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to donate.  Even if the message looks legitimate, it could be an example of phishing—when scammers use the names and logos of real organizations to try to steal your money.  The messages may include links to copycat web sites of legitimate charities to try to trick donors.  If you want to donate, contact the charity at a website or phone number you know to be valid.
 
  • Watch out for pushy telemarketers.  Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you for a credit card number are usually up to no good.  Also, some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money the give to charities.  Your money will go further if you give directly to the organization, not to hired fundraisers.
 
  • Don’t give cash.  Avoid giving cash gifts that 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 calls you, and don’t share personal financial information by email or text message.  If you donate online, use a secure website.  Look for a lock icon and a web address that starts with “https”.
 
  • Check out charities before you give. 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.  For detailed financial information about a charity, contact the NC Secretary of State’s office at (888) 830‑4989 orwww.secretary.state.nc.us/csl, or visit www.guidestar.org.
 



Media contact:  Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413