Friday, December 9, 2022

Here are a few tips you should consider before giving money to disaster relief

As the East Coast begins to recover from Hurricane Florence, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring is encouraging Virginians to exercise caution as they consider donating money to assist disaster victims in.

Herring said scammers often use natural disasters such as hurricanes to set up fake charities “where the money collected is pocketed by the scammer.”

“The images we are seeing out of the areas hit by Hurricane Florence are heartbreaking, and it is the first instinct of Virginians to help victims during this time of need,” Herring said. “Folks must be smart and cautious when donating to hurricane focused charities because the sad truth is there are immoral people out there who will take advantage of a natural disaster to line their own pockets. I would encourage everyone to do their research before donating money to any charity that claims to help victims of this storm.”

While there are many legitimate organizations that provide relief to disaster victims, there are also many con artists that will use the phone, e-mail, U.S. Postal Service, the internet, or personal contact to try to get your money.

Here are some tips when considering a charitable donation:

 On crowdfunding sites:

  • Check the creator or page owner’s credentials and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness.
  • Look for indicators of endorsement or legitimacy that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization. Some sites offer verification and transparency measures for campaigns. Look for those markers of authenticity, and check out the site’s fraud protection measures.
  • Be cautious, and if you feel uneasy, contribute to a more established charity in the community.
  • Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. They may make a compelling case for you to donate but even if they are legitimate, they may not have the infrastructure or experience to get your donation to the affected area or people.
  • Only give to charities and fundraisers you can confirm are reliable and legitimate. Scrutinize charities with consumer advocates or friends and find out how much of your donation will go to the charity’s programs and services.
  • Beware of “copycat” names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity.
  • Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately.
  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible. Just because a “charity” has a tax identification number does not mean your contribution is tax-deductible.
  • Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation. For security and tax record purposes, you may wish to pay by credit card.
  • If contributing over the internet, be sure the website you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate. See if other legitimate websites will link to that website. Make sure the website is secure and offers protection of your credit card number
  • If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, verify its registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs at 804-786-1343, or by searching OCRP’s Charitable Organization Database online.
  • While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean that the organization will be effective in aiding victims of a particular natural disaster.

Who to Contact

You can report charitable solicitation fraud to the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs and the Office of the Attorney General at the following addresses and telephone numbers: P.O. Box 1163 Richmond, Virginia 23218 – 804-786-1343 or Fax at 804-225-2666.

Here’s a link to OCRP’s Charitable Solicitation complaint form.
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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