The tornados of 2011, Japan, Hurricane Katrina, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and Haiti: these are examples of moments when our world is halted by devastation. We can’t imagine how this happened, why it happened, and how it feels to be a victim of the disaster. Our hearts go out, and we want to help in any way that we can. Sure, we could take the time to go and physically help with the rescue and rebuild, but that requires taking time off work, finances for travel, and sometimes specialized training. One way that we can help from home is through making a donation. Often people give food, clothing, water, and money. Thankfully, many charities and organizations exist for the sole purpose of assisting those affected by natural disasters. But what happens when the charity doesn’t do what it says it will?
First, some tips on how to avoid fraudulent charities:
- Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you do happen to open an email, don’t click on any links or pictures.
- Go directly to the organization’s website, instead of doing transactions via email.
- Never give out personal or financial information over the telephone. Always request physical information or emails with instructions on how to donate to the organization.
- If you are questioning the legitimacy of an organization, do a little research to make sure that they are who they say they are. GuideStar.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging nonprofit transparency, meaning making nonprofits’ organizational budgets and staffing open to the public. “Non-profit and charitable organizations associated with disaster relief efforts should be encouraged to be transparent. The availability of information and public disclosure about charities’ operations can help stimulate oversight by donors, the media, academia, and private organizations” (Bryant, 2006).
- Though it may seem heartless, don’t always trust people that claim to be individual victims of the disaster. By donating through a trusted organization, you may not be helping that specific solicitor, but you will know that your money is going where you intended it. U.S. News & World Report wrote an article called “How to Donate Wisely,” where they mention that “online or in person, the high-pressure pitch is the scammer’s hallmark” (2010).
We know hearts are in the right place when trying to donate money to victims of disasters, but that doesn’t always mean those accepting the money have the same heart. If you feel like you have been a victim of a charity scam, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud. If you would like to report suspicious email or internet activity, go to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). IC3’s suggestion for finding out more information about charity schemes is to go to www.lookstogoodtobetrue.com. Lastly, visit NCPC for more information and resources on how to avoid charity and other types of fraud and identity theft.