In recent months, several natural disasters throughout the world--including floods, earthquakes, severe storms, tornadoes, and wildfires--have devastated lives and property. In the wake of these events, which cause emotional distress and great monetary loss to numerous victims, individuals across the nation often feel a desire to help by offering charitable donations.
Unfortunately, these tragic incidents have also prompted criminals to take advantage of this good will by illegally soliciting contributions while claiming to represent legitimate charitable organizations.
"We have seen this time and time again--these scam artists will do anything and everything to steal your identity and your money as you try and make donations to well-deserving charities. If you want your money to go to a good cause, exercise caution to ensure it gets to those in need," said Special Agent Richard Kolko from Washington, D.C.
The FBI provides the following tips for consumers wishing to make contributions:
Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations.
Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization's website rather than following an alleged link to the sit e.
Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which also may assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization.
Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
To receive the latest information about cyber scams please go to the FBI website and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. If you have received a scam e-mail please notify IC3 by filing a complaint at http://www.ic3.gov/. For more information on e-scams, please visit the FBI's New E-Scams and Warnings webpage.