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Scammers follow in the wake of Hurricane

Hurricane Sandy may be creating new business for scam artists.

Websites and phone solicitors can mimic legitimate charities that change where the donations are sent.

In the wake of Hurricanes, scammers try to snare people with claims that sound great like “all proceeds go to the charity.”  Or they'll set up what appear to be legitimate Email and websites asking for contributions to help victims, but that actually go directly into their pockets.

“Generally what that is” says the Better Business Bureau’s Melanie Duquesnel, “is that there’s some scam artist out there looking at what you’re tracking and saying ‘oh I’m going to go ping them and see if they’re gonna take the bait.’”

She cautions that scammers may legally buy marketing lists identifying charity donors and then target those people. 

So in case you’re thinking about donating to a charity you’re not familiar with – she suggests calling them first to verify its authenticity.  “Pick up the phone, call your local Better Business Bureau.  Ask us about a couple of charities.  We will look up the reports on your behalf and that way they’re informed.  They can make some sound decisions.”

Here’s a few more tips:

  • Be cautious when giving online
  • Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity
  • Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims
  • Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.
  • Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.
  • Be extra careful about pickups at your home for clothing, food or other in-kind donations.

–  Chris Zollars

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