The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) provides consumers with "Tips on Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes."
IC3 is particularly concerned that natural disasters could prompt cyber criminals to solicit contributions purportedly for charitable organizations or a good cause.
IC3 issued its tips in March 2011 after the Japanese earthquake. In view of Hurricane Sandy, the tips remain relevant.
- Before donating, IC3 urges consumers to be skeptical of those representing themselves as officials soliciting by email. In fact, the center urges consumers not to respond to unsolicited email, which should be considered spam.
- Consumers should protect their personal and financial information to help avoid identity theft and be cautious of links/attachments within unsolicited email, which could contain malware and viruses.
- Contributions are important; victims need help. However, the center cautions consumers to make contributions to known organizations, rather than relying on others to make donations for you.
- It is a good idea to validate a soliciting organization’s legitimacy. Possible sites where information on charities can be found are Guide Star (www.guidestar.org), Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), American Institute of Philanthropy (www.charitywatch.org) and the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/charity).
Consumers can read the entire IC3 publication and report fraudulent Websites/suspicious email solicitations at www.IC3.gov.
For more about charity fraud generally, see http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/charityfraud/.