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CONSUMER ALERT: Watch for Donation Scams in Hurricane Sandy’s Wake
October 31, 2012

Contact:  Jerad Albracht, Communications Specialist, 608-224-5007 or Jim Dick, Communications Director, 608-224-5020 

MADISON – As the eastern United States begins its slow recovery, the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection cautions residents to watch out for scams and to research organizations to ensure that they are legitimate charities donating to the hurricane recovery.
 
“Criminals may use this disaster to take advantage of people’s generosity, and we want you to protect yourself against cyber fraud,” said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection.  “Be suspicious of unsolicited requests for donations to disaster relief.”

Consumer Protection offers these tips when considering making a charitable donation online: 

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (SPAM) messages or click on links or attachments.  Fraudulent requests for donations commonly circulate through email, texts and social media after disasters.  Links and attachments may contain viruses.
  • Make donations to established, reputable organizations by directly visiting their websites rather than following an alleged link to a website found in an email.
  • Be cautious when making an online donation.  Criminals can set up look-alike websites.  Many legitimate charity websites end in “dot-org (.org)” rather than “dot-com (.com).”  Also, only enter your personal information into sites whose URL address beings with “https,” rather than “http” – the “s” stands for secure.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a charity by checking with the Better Business Bureau (1-800-273-1002) or www.give.org.  Other helpful resources include www.guidestar.org or www.charitynavigator.org

General donation tips: 

  • Do not give out personal or financial information – including your social security, credit card or bank account numbers – unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • Be cautious of charities that seem to have sprung up overnight.
  • Never send a cash donation.  If you pay in cash, you will not have a record of the transaction for tax purposes and you cannot be certain that the charity received your donation.
  • If you receive a phone solicitation, ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser.  If you do not get a clear answer — or if you do not like the answer you get — consider donating to a different organization.

For more consumer information or to file a consumer complaint, visit the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s website at datcp.wisconsin.gov; via e-mail at datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

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