Columbia, Mo. -- Resisting online or other pleas for a donation to help Joplin tornado survivors can be hard. Many who may not have suffered damage themselves are often eager to help fellow Missourians in need.
A solicitation for a donation to a "tornado-relief fund" may arrive by e-mail, by phone or via a knock at the door. What can you do to be sure the request for funds is legitimate?
Disasters prompt individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization or a good cause. Therefore, before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
- Do not respond to unsolicited (SPAM) e-mail.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations.
- 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 site.
- 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.
- Research fully the charitable organization they claim to represent by getting an exact name and phone number.
- Call the charity directly and confirm the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer.
- Ask how the funds will be used.
- If you decide to give, write a check in the name of the charity and get a receipt.
- 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.
- 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 obtain more information on charitable contribution schemes and other types of online schemes, visit www.ic3.gov/egress.aspx?u=http%3a%2f%2fwww.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com&h=E94FC01B87465B201AD691C5B240D804CE094CCE6831CB34622F0DAEE8ABE142. If consumers believe they have been a victim of a charity-related scheme, they should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by telephone at (866) 720-5721, or by fax at (225) 334-4707, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any suspicious e-mail solicitation or fraudulent website should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov/.
Consumers are encouraged to file a complaint with IC3 if they have been contacted by a fraudulent charitable email even if the consumer did not respond. Identifying trends is an important step in notifying the public of possible scams, according to IC3.
IC3’s mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime. The IC3 gives the victims of cyber crime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations.
The NCDF was originally established by the Department of Justice to investigate, prosecute, and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud from any natural or man-...