09/12/2023: Unmasking Charity and Relief Fund Scams

Texas has been overwhelmed with all the wildfires that have been going on. Since August 1st, over 8,500 acres of land, homes, buildings, and forests have been affected. Burn bans span almost the whole state and over 75% of Texas counties have been issued a wildfire disaster. Just a few weeks ago, a brush fire in Cedar Park tore through an apartment complex, completely burning down one of the buildings.

In times like this, communities band together and often donate to a charity or relief fund that will help benefit those in their time of need. This is the perfect opening for scammers to take advantage of your goodwill. These scams prey on your humanity and generosity. They often appear as a legitimate business calling on you to help a good cause.


Understanding Charity Scams

Scammers pretend to donate to a good cause but take your money for themselves.

They can reach out to you in many different forms, including emails, social media, crowdfunding platforms, phone, etc.

They frequently exaggerate the story and purpose to evoke sympathy and emotion. But they usually don’t give proof or info to support their claims.

Recognizing Relief Fund Scams

Scammers running a relief fund scam will typically strike during and right after a natural disaster occurs. They will pose as somebody collecting money going towards the relief efforts.

Verify charity and aid funds regularly. Check reputation and credentials on charity research sites.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

There are signs you can look for to protect yourself. Check the list below for red flags to look out for.

  • Non-traditional payment methods: Cash, Money Wire, or Gift Card Donations.
  • Requests for personal or financial information.
  • Donation is not tax deductible.
  • Fake Information.
  • Pressure Tactics.
  • Messages with strange requests, words misspelled or missing, and/or worded weirdly.

Scammers will more than likely insist you donate money right away. Instead, ask the organization to send you their materials before giving money or personal information.

Researching Charities and Relief Funds

When considering donating, you should always do your research first. You can use trusted charity research websites that give you resources and credentials on the charity you are looking for.

Check if the charity has a legitimate website. Verify if the IRS acknowledges the charity as a nonprofit. Decide whether you can deduct a donation to the charity as a charitable contribution.

Safe Ways to Donate

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has listed how you should pay when you are looking to donate.

  • Do not pay with wire transfers or gift cards. This is something scammers tend to do since these methods are hard to track.
  • It’s safest to donate by credit card or check.
  • If you are donating from the charity’s website, make sure the webpage has “https” in the web address. This means that we encrypt and securely transmit your information.
  • Do not donate with cryptocurrency. If they don’t accept other forms of payment, this is likely a scam.

Reporting Scams

If you or someone you know have been dealing with a scam, please file a report with the FTC.

You can file a report at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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