Watch out for Hurricane Florence donation scams

Warnings from IRS, Better Business Bureau

By Ashley Harding - Reporter, Jennifer Ready - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As residents in North and South Carolina deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, there's warning out for people trying to help those in need.

Be aware of scams and con artists before you donate to any charity claiming to help the victims of Hurricane Florence.

Scam artists take advantage of natural disasters as a time to con people out of their money.

IRS warning about scammers

Taxpayers need to pay close attention for scammers. The IRS is warning you to be on alert if someone contacts you by phone, e-mail, or in-person asking for money or personal information to help the victims of Hurricane Florence.

Some scammers will claim to be a charity asking for money. Others will claim to be the IRS helping victims.

Watch out for phony websites that look similar to those of legitimate charities. Double check the link and make sure the website's URL has a "s" in the https of the address. That “s” stands for secure.

The IRS is also reminding taxpayers to never give out personal information to anyone who solicits it- that includes social security numbers and bank account information.

A secure way to look up tax-exempt and credible charities is by visiting the IRS website here: Tax Exempt Organization Search

BBB warning about charity scams

The Better Business Bureau and Give.org is urging you to be careful with your donations.

Donors that are experienced disaster relief organizations are your best bet to provide emergency help for victims of Hurricane Florence, according to the BBB. It’s also important for contributors to ask about what activities their donations will fund.

“This is not amateur hour,” said Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Give.org has seen crowdfunding posts from individuals claiming to raise funds so they can deliver and distribute water, food, and flashlights to impacted areas. Even if sincere, such efforts may risk lives, complicate access by professional efforts and potentially divert donations that could be directed in more helpful ways.”

BBB also expects to see price-gougers and “storm chasers” looking to make a quick buck off preparation and clean-up efforts.

Before you donate

To protect yourself, make sure to do your homework before making a donation.

Verify if the organization is legitimate. 

  • You can do this by going to Give.org to find out if they meet Better Business Bureau standards. Some verified groups include The American Red Cross, Operation USA, and Direct Relief

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the affected areas

  • Be careful about donating things like clothes and food. 
  • The BBB says this may not be the quickest way to help people in need. If you go this route, you need to make sure the organization has available staff ready to hand out those types of donations.

If you are donating through crowdfunding, the BBB says your best bet is to only contribute to people you personally know.

“While we all want to help those in harm’s way as soon as we can, donors should watch out for newly created organizations that emerge that are either inexperienced in addressing disasters or may be seeking to deceive donors at a vulnerable time.” 

Reporting a scam 

The BBB makes it easy to file a report if you suspect someone is operating a scam. Consumers can report suspected scams to BBB Scam Tracker or the office of the Attorney General’s office.
 

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.