« Jessie's Ramblings

Scammers taking advantage of good people trying to help victims.

by Jessie Hawkins

Scammers akin to taking advantage of the heightened emotions surrounding natural disasters and tragedies, will be hard at work creating fraudulent charities following the Oklahoma tornado. Scambook, the Internet's leading complaint resolution platform, wants to issue a warning to consumers to be wary of these charities planning to divert aid to fake online relief funds via websites and social media platforms.

Scambook advises the public to restrict their donations to previously established organizations such as the Red Cross, United Way of Central Oklahoma or AmeriCares. To avoid donating to a fraudulent charity, Scambook also recommends the following tips:

1. Research the organization online by contacting the State Attorney General or the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) to find out if an organization is registered. Watchdog sites guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org can be used for conducting additional research, as well as www.whois.com/whois/ that lists websites by their domain and registration date. If a charity was registered recently, it's more likely to be a scam.

2. Don't trust viral stories from supposed victims. Many of these stories prove false but harmless, while others 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 claims can be verified.

3. Don't give in to the pressure to donate as a legitimate charity will never pressure anyone. Call the organization the caller claims 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. Think about any past donations. A legitimate charity can provide the date and any other verifying information regarding their charity. 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 because although many legitimate charities can receive donations via text message, it is highly unlikely that they will send out a text without prior notification. Trust instincts and find other ways to donate.

Additionally, Scambook reminds the public that relief efforts for Oklahoma tornado victims will be ongoing as the total damage is being assessed. 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 www.redcrossblood.org/make-donation.

Please let me know if you would like to speak with Scambook’s Director of Marketing Kase Chong to learn more about charity scams. For more information please visit Scambook.com.