Attorney General Beau Biden encourages Delawareans to take several steps to protect themselves against scams related to the tornado that devastated parts of Oklahoma earlier this week.
“It is wonderful to see people coming together and making donations to support the survivors of this natural disaster,” Biden said. “Unfortunately, criminals frequently use tragedies to devise creative ways to exploit our generosity for their own financial gain. I want to remind Delawareans of a few easy steps they can take to help avoid these scams.”
Scammers have a long track record of trying to benefit from tragedies. Just last week in New York City, for example, prosecutors charged a Bronx woman with fraudulently posing as the aunt of a victim of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The woman is accused of fraudulently seeking donations through Facebook, phone calls and text messages to fund a funeral for the victim she claimed to have been her nephew.
To protect against scammers, Biden and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit recommend the following tips:
>> Make sure a charity is legitimate by visiting the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, Charity Navigator atwww.charitynavigator.org, or the American Institute of Philanthropy atwww.charitywatch.org where you can view lists of verified charities. Ensure that the solicitation website and the purported charity match and that the website is secure.
>> Hang up on aggressive cold callers and delete unsolicited e-mail. Fraudulent solicitors will do their best to appeal to your emotions; legitimate charities will inform you of their charitable mission and the ways your donation will be put to good use.
>> Ask whether your donation is tax-deductable. You have a right to know how your donated funds are used and you are entitled to ask questions and get answers about the charity that will be receiving your money.
>> Avoid clicking on links received via email or online pop-ups and do not provide any personal information to anyone you suspect is attempting to fraudulently solicit you. Providing even your address or zip code may allow fraudsters to take advantage of you.
>> Do not give cash donations and do not supply your credit card number or other personal financial information. If you wish to make a donation, you should pay by check and make the payment out to the charity’s full name. Avoid using initials or abbreviations in making out the check and do not make it payable to anyone except the legitimate charity you want the funds to go to.
While criminals constantly come up with new scams, there are several types of scams Delawareans should be especially aware of:
Page 2 of 2 - >> Cold-calling telephone salespeople, advertisements, and Internet postings that promote investment pools or bonds to help the disaster victims and their families.
>> Mail, email and door-to-door solicitations for donations that claim to be for the assistance or relief of the victims or their families.
>> Scams looking for money; some will be attempting to steal credit card information for identity theft.
>> Fake victims may attempt to use social media to dupe well-intentioned donors. Do not donate to unknown individuals that purport to need aid via posts on Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter or other social media sites.
Anyone who suspects they have been scammed or have received a suspicious solicitation, Biden said, should immediately call the Attorney General’s toll-free Consumer Hotline at 1-800-220-5424 or email the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.