The FBI Columbia field office is warning the public to be aware of charity scams following last week’s deadly tornadoes across the southeast and Midwest.
These scams can occur at any time, but they tend to increase following a natural disaster. Scammers find ways to seek donations for organizations that do little to no work, and the money goes directly to the fake charity’s creator. Sometimes scammers even pretend to be government officials to make their scheme more believable. The FBI offers several tips to help you from becoming a victim:
• Donate to established charities or groups whose work you are familiar with and trust.
• Be cautious of organizations with copycat names or names similar to well-known organizations.
• Be wary of new organizations that claim to aid victims of recent high-profile disasters.
• Do your research. Use the Federal Trade Commission's resources to review the track record of a charity.
• Consider donating using a check or credit card. If a charity or organization asks you to donate through cash, gift card, virtual currency, or wire transfer, there is a good chance it is a scam.
• Practice good cyber routines:
▪ Do not click links or open email attachments from someone you do not know.
▪ Manually type out links instead of clicking on them.
▪ Do not provide any personal information in response to an email, robocall, or robotext. ▪ Check the website's address—most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com. If you are a victim of charity or disaster fraud you can report it by multiple ways:
• Contact the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.
• Report fraud to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov.
• Report online fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
• Report suspected disaster fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by visiting www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.