It's very easy for scammers to create websites for fake charities and solicit donations on behalf of the victims, preying on the emotions of the public.
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) May 22, 2013
Scambook, the Internet's leading complaint resolution platform, is warning consumers to be wary of the latest charity scams exploiting the recent tornado devastation in Oklahoma and other parts of the Midwest. It's expected that scammers will attempt to divert aid by creating fake online relief funds via websites and social media platforms.
Fraudulent charities and relief fund scams were observed in the aftermath of other recent disasters and tragedies, including Hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook Elementary and last month's Boston Marathon bombing.
"It's very easy for scammers to create websites for fake charities and solicit donations on behalf of the victims, preying on the emotions of the public," said Kase Chong, Scambook's Director of Marketing. "Many people give their money to the first relief organization that comes along without questioning the group's credentials, preventing generous aid from getting to the people who actually need it."
At this time, Scambook advises the public to restrict their donations to previously established organizations such as the Red Cross, United Way of Central Oklahoma or AmeriCares, who already have the infrastructure to help disaster victims and distribute donations quickly.
To avoid donating to a fraudulent charity, Scambook also recommends the following tips:
1. Research the organization online. Contact the State Attorney General or the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) to find out if an organization is officially registered. Scambook also recommends watchdog sites guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org for conducting additional research. Furthermore, consumers can find information about charity websites by visiting http://www.whois.com/whois/ and searching for the website domain. This will show when website was first registered. If registered recently, it's more likely to be a scam.
2. Don't trust viral stories from supposed victims. In the wake of a natural disaster, dozens of heart- breaking stories circulate social media and email. Many of these stories prove false but harmless, while others may include a PayPal link for donations. Don't give money to someone online who claims to be a victim unless there is a personal connection and their claims can be verified.
3. Don't give in to the pressure to donate. Even in times of immediate need, a legitimate charity will never pressure anyone to donate. If an individual soliciting donations is rude or threatening, or refuses to answer questions, it's unlikely that they represent a real charity. Call the organization they claim to represent and report the incident. Violent threats or continued harassment should be reported to local law enforcement.
4. Stop and remember past donations. Charity scammers often try to build trust with their victims by calling, emailing or sending mailers that thank the victim for making a past donation. If contacted, Scambook advises individuals to pause and think about their history with this supposed charity. A legitimate charity representative will be able to provide the date of the individual's past donations or other verifying information. If the caller cannot do this, it's a red flag. Donors should always keep their own receipts or other records of donations for this purpose.
5. Watch out for unsolicited text messages. Individuals are warned to be very cautious of unsolicited text messages asking for donations. Although many legitimate charities can receive donations via text message, it is highly unlikely that they will send out a text without prior notification. Scambook advises individuals to trust their instincts and find other ways to donate if receiving suspicious text messages.
Additionally, Scambook reminds the public that relief efforts for Oklahoma tornado victims will be ongoing as the total damage is still being assessed. Although individuals may desire to help as soon as possible, legitimate charities will still be collecting funds several months from now.
If individuals wish to help but do not have extra money to give, they are encouraged to contact their local Red Cross chapter to donate blood by visiting http://www.redcrossblood.org/make-donation.
Scambook asks the public to share this information with their community to prevent scammers from profiting off the disaster in Oklahoma. For more information about charity scams or to search for complaints about an organization, visit http://www.scambook.com.
Scambook is an online complaint resolution platform dedicated to obtaining justice for victims of fraud with unprecedented speed and accuracy. By building communities and providing resources on the latest scams, Scambook arms consumers with the up-to-date information they need to stay on top of emerging schemes. Since its inception, Scambook has resolved over $10 million in reported consumer damages. For more information, visit scambook.com.