When disaster strikes many legitimate organizations quickly respond by seeking donations to aid victims. Scam artists are also known to respond by posing as an aid organization to solicit money or by posting links to fake video footage on social media sites that, when clicked, install viruses and spyware to the user’s computer.
You can avoid common emergency relief scams by following these tips:
Be sure you are contributing to a legitimate organization. All charities that solicit for donations in Oregon must register with the Attorney General's Office. Search the Department's online database or call 971-673-1880 to confirm that a charity is registered before you give. You can also visit www.guidestar.org or www.charitynavigator.org, to get detailed information about charities and their finances.
Only give to established charities. Creating an efficient and effective charity overnight is nearly impossible. Make sure the charity was in existence before the disaster occurred.
Do not respond to email requests from supposed disaster victims. Unless you know someone in the affected area, these requests are almost always scams. Also, be wary of donation requests or videos posted on social media sites by alleged victims.
Never give out personal information via phone, text or email. Legitimate charities will be pleased to receive a contribution by check or other secure form of payment and will never request your bank account number or social security number. Learn more about protecting sensitive information.
Beware of requests for fast money. If you are unfamiliar with the charity, always ask for written materials and do your research before you give. No legitimate organization will insist that you donate immediately. Never send contributions by wire or overnight parcel pick-up service - these are signs of a scam.
Look out for mysterious phone charges. If you make a donation by sending a text message, your donation will appear on your phone bill. Texting your donation to a legitimate organization is a perfectly acceptable way to help those in need. However, if strange charges other than your donation appear on your bill you may be the victim of a scam. Make sure you understand your phone bill and the signs of “cramming.”
For more tips on making the most of charitable donations, please see DOJ’s Wise Giving Guide.