May 28, 2013

Charity Scams

donationUsually after natural or man made catastrophic events many people join together to provide assistance to the victims…usually through time or money.  Ever opportunistic, scammers take advantage of this generous outpour of relief. In the days following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, SpamBusters received multiple reports of spammers soliciting emergency relief donations on behalf of the International Red Cross. (Boone, 2009) After Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned about con artists playing “on sympathy for disaster survivors.”  Back in 2011, the Federal Trade Commission warned about charity scams after the Mississippi River flooding, and major tornadoes ripped through the southeast and Midwest. “The nation’s consumer protection agency warns consumers about urgent appeals for charitable donations…” (FTC, 2011) In March 2013, the family of a 6-year-old shooting victim from the December 2012 Newton School Shooting warned about a fake website pretending to raise money for them. (Kopko, 2013) 

"For only pennies a day,
you can help the poor
victims of [insert disaster]."
I can go on with numerous other examples, but it is fairly evident that scammers follow the headlines to help develop their ploys in ripping people off. As soon as the overnight charity pops up, they are gone with your money. In a 2013 release, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) provided warning signs of a potential scammer:

-they talk mainly about the disaster

-provide little details of what the charity will do with the donations

-have only vague details about the charity itself.

To protect yourself and ensure your money helps the actual victims, follow these helpful tips.

-Only donate to charities you know and trust. Be leery of charity groups that appear overnight.

-Do not give out personal or financial information, unless you know the charity is reputable.

-Ask the solicitor to describe clearly how your donation will be used.

-Ask for reading material about the charity, and its annual report. Established and reputable charities would gladly provide this information.

-Be leery of unsolicited emails asking for money. These may contain links to fake websites set up to look like an established charity, but only exists to obtain credit card and other personal information.

-Research before donating. Do your homework and research the charity at the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at or

Boone, J. (2009 October). Disaster Fraud. National White Collar Crime Center. Retrieved from
Federal Emergency Management
Agency (2013 March 14). Protect against fraud after Sandy. Retrieved from

Federal Trade Commission (2011 May 27). FTC warns consumers: Charity and home repair scams may appear after a disaster. Retrieved from
Kopko, J. (2013 May 20). Beware of after-storm scams. Better Business Bureau. Retrieved from
Military One Source. Avoiding frauds and scams after a natural disaster. Legal Information. Retrieved from