The Honolulu Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to remind the public there is a potential for disaster fraud and scams in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yutu.
In the wake of natural disasters, many individuals feel moved to contribute to victim assistance programs and organizations across the globe. The FBI reminds the public to apply a critical eye and conduct due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims. Solicitations can originate as emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods.
Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
1. Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including by clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
2. Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.
3. Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
4. Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by using internet-based resources.
5. Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
6. To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
7. Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
8. Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
9. 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.
10. Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
11. Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com.
“All of our hearts go out to the people in the CNMI at this time,” said FBI Honolulu special agent-in-charge Sean L. Kaul, “It is important during times of crisis, we remain vigilant to the numerous types of scams that divert resources from genuine recovery efforts.”
You can report suspicious email solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. (FBI)