Give Wisely: State Warns Residents to Beware of Charity Scams in Wake of Boston Tragedy
“Once again, we know that compassionate, caring individuals and groups will want to offer whatever assistance they can,” said Commissioner Rubenstein. “But because scammers are always poised to exploit tragedy for personal gain, we want to remind donors to beware of the potential for scam charities to proliferate, and to be wary about providing any money in response to emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings or telephone calls in the name of helping victims of Tuesday’s bombings.”
“All of our thoughts are with the people of Boston and the victims of this terrible attack, and we know the outpouring of support from Connecticut and beyond will likely be significant,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “As we’ve seen far too often after a tragedy such as this, bad actors may seek to exploit the situation and take advantage of those looking for a way to help. We urge people to use their best judgment and take some simple precautions to ensure that their donations reach those in need.”
The Commissioner and Attorney General offer the following suggestions for donating on behalf of victims:
- Donate to well-known, established charities; it is the best way to ensure that your donation is used appropriately. Find a charity with a proven track record that is making help available to the victims, first responders, and families.
- When giving to any organization, designate the preferred use for your donation (e.g. “for the families of Boston Marathon victims”), and do so in writing whenever possible.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone soliciting contributions.
- Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity.
- Do not make checks payable to individuals.
- Be extra cautious when responding to e-mail and telephone solicitations on behalf of supposed victims. These methods of solicitation are more likely to be part of a scam.
- Delete unsolicited e-mails and don’t open attachments, even if they claim to contain video or photographs. The attachments may be viruses designed to steal personal financial information from your computer.
- Watch carefully for copycat organizations. Criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identities and donations of generous, unsuspecting individuals. When giving online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate website. You can access accurate links to the sites of each bona fide charity at Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org).
- Social media sites can also perpetuate scams. Do not blindly give via these vehicles. As with any charity, investigate the groups behind such pleas to ensure that they come from a legitimate organization.
- Both the need for donations and the opportunity for giving will be present for some time. Therefore, do not feel pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics. If you feel pressured at all, you are most likely being scammed.
Charities that collect funds in Massachusetts are required to register with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, and donors should confirm that any charity they plan to support is appropriately registered at this web page.
The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection maintains information on charities that are registered with the state and the minimum percentage guaranteed to go to that charity, if the charity is soliciting through a paid solicitor. The Department’s website, https://www.elicense.ct.gov, provides charity registration information and displays any active solicitation campaign notices for a registered charity or their paid solicitor.
Additional information is also available at Charity Navigator, http://www.charitynavigator.org; the Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/charityfraud; and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at http://www.bbb.org/us/charity.
“We all want to be certain that donations intended to support victims of this tragedy reach their intended goal, and are not diverted through fraudulent means,” Rubenstein said. “Please report suspicious solicitations to your local police and to the Department of Consumer Protection at 1-800-842-2649. Anyone caught engaging in fraudulent activity will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”