Pandemic-related Charity Fraud Booms: FBI
Many Americans want to help during the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to charities, but the FBI is warning that scammers also are angling to get at your money by posing as charities to help coronavirus victims.
Nationwide, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have received reports of scammers fraudulently soliciting donations for individuals, groups and areas affected by COVID-19. They are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don't let them.
Charity scams often occur when a fraudster poses as a real charity or uses the name of a real charity to get money from you.
Do not give money to any charity calling you for donations and be wary if you get a call about a donation pledge that you don't remember making.
Making things trickier, you can't always believe your caller ID. Scammers often spoof organizations' phone numbers. It's always best to research the organization telephone number yourself and ask to call back to verify.
Don't let them pressure you or make you rush to donate. If they are pushy, there is a strong possibility that they are scammers.
Similarly, if you receive an e-mail purporting to be from a charitable organization, whatever you do, do not click on links. These could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone.
Watch out for charity names which sound very similar to well-known charities, as well as e-mail addresses that are not consistent with the charity soliciting donations. Instead, search for the charity using an internet search engine to ensure you're connected to the actual charitable organization.
The best way to protect yourself is by doing your research.
You can also follow these tips:
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether you're donating through charities, social media or crowdfunding websites.
- Look for online reviews of charity organizations or use information from your state's regulator of charities or from websites like the Better Business Bureau, give.org, charitynavigator.org or charitywatch.org to check on the legitimacy of charitable organizations.
- Before donating, ask how much of the donation will go toward the program or cause you want to support. Every organization has administrative costs, and it's important to understand those structures.
- Never pay by gift card or wire transfer. Credit cards are safer.
- After making a donation, be sure to review your financial accounts to ensure additional funds are not deducted or charged.
- Always do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the coronavirus, purchasing COVID-related products online, or providing your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.
The FBI has more tips at fbi.gov/charityfraud.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it to the FBI online at tips.fbi.gov and to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
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