RALEIGH — Give generously to Hurricane Matthew relief efforts but look out for charity scams, Attorney General Roy Cooper urged North Carolinians today.
“Hurricane Matthew devastated families and communities from North Carolina to Haiti, and many of us want to help,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, scammers may try to take advantage of our generosity and keep those donations for themselves.”
Relief efforts are currently underway to aid victims of the disaster in the U.S. and abroad. While Cooper’s office has not yet received complaints about fraudulent fundraising efforts following Hurricane Matthew, previous natural disasters have shown that charity scams are likely to come. Cooper encouraged North Carolinians to give generously to hurricane victims but to be wary of solicitations from phony charities.
“Please consider helping victims if you can, but make sure your donation goes where it will do the most good,” Cooper said. “Research charities before you give, and report charity scams to my office.”
To give wisely and avoid charity scams:
—Know how to spot fake charities. Charity scams often use names that are very close to the names of real charities, non-profits or even law enforcement agencies. If you want to donate, contact the real charity or organization at a website or phone number you know to be valid.
—Decide who you want to give to. Instead of responding to solicitations to make a donation, especially from telemarketers who may keep as much as 90 percent of the money they collect, decide which charities you want to support and contact them directly. If you’re giving to relief efforts here in North Carolina, consider giving to groups you already know do good work in your community.
—Do your research. Visit give.org to see if national charities meet the standards set by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, and charitywatch.org for ratings of charities by the American Institute of Philanthropy. You can also look into charities through guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org.
—Stick with established charities. Brand new charities often pop up after natural disasters. Some may be legitimate, but others may be scams or just too poorly organized to be effective. In general it’s best to give to charities with an established track record for using donations wisely.
—Be wary of any charity that won’t answer your questions. If someone refuses to answer questions about how they will use your donation, it may be a scam. If you’re not sure, check out the charity by calling the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office at 1-888-830‑4989 or visit sosnc.gov/CSL.
—Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to give. Even if the message looks legitimate, it could be a phishing scam. These messages may include links to websites that look legitimate but are really set up to trick you into donating.
—Avoid pushy telemarketers. Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you are usually up to no good. Also, some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money they collect for charities. Your money will go further if you give directly to the real charity, not to hired fundraisers.
—Be careful about donating through social media posts. The cause may sound worthy, but verify how the money is going to be used before you give.
—Consider crowdfunding requests very carefully. Crowdfunding sites allow people to raise money for causes and projects online, but they can be misused by scammers. Make sure you know who you’re donating to and how the funds will be used, and ask how much of your donation would go to the crowdfunding site instead of the cause
—Don’t give cash. Cash gifts can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by credit card. If you pay by check, make it out to the charity itself, not the fundraiser.
—Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you for any reason. If someone calls you asking for a credit card, bank account or Social Security number, avoid giving to them—it could be a scam.
For more tips on giving to charity or to report potential scams, contact the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877- 5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint at ncdoj.gov.