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In the wake of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or death of a community member, it is common to want to help those affected by tragedy.  Unfortunately, individuals and organizations attempt to take advantage of your generosity by posing as phony charities to steal your money or financial information.  Following a tragedy, scammers may use phone, email, social media, and websites that are similar to well-known charities in order to trick sympathetic consumers. Before you give, be sure your donations are going to a legitimate organization.

Use this checklist and tips when you are contemplating helping people in disaster-affected areas:

  • Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, the address, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser.
  • Get the exact name of the organization and do some research. Search the name online utilizing search words along with the name such as “complaints” and “scam.”
  • Call the charity separately. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. The development staff will be able to help you.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser is registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials or the Attorney General’s Public Charities Annual Filing website.
  • Be wary of charities that were very recently established.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information including your credit card or bank account number – unless you are certain the charity is reputable.
  • Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. Scammers often request donations to be wired because wiring money is like sending cash—once you send it you won’t get it back.

Hurricane

How can you know for sure?

There are resources designed to help protect you from charity scams, including: Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch.

If you think you have been a victim of a charity scam, report it to our office and the Better Business Bureau.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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