Tsunami relief scams

The recent tragedy caused by tsunamis in East Asia have brought enormous suffering and death to residents and visitors to the area. The United States and other countries are mobilizing massive relief efforts that are both government sponsored and assisted by private contributions from individuals.

Unfortunately, there are those who wish to take advantage of the generosity of Americans. Reports of scam artists posing as representatives of relief agencies have surfaced in some portions of the country. This should not stop Floridians from contributing to genuine relief efforts, but consumers should be cautious. An awareness of the rules governing charities can be helpful.

The federal government has created a website where the public can find a list of legitimate agencies accepting donations on behalf of victims of the tsunamis. That site can be found at www.usafreedomcorps.gov.

It is important for consumers to protect themselves and prevent scams. Clever con artists are often gone from an area before victims realize they have been conned. Consumers may be approached over the telephone, the internet or by mail. Some helpful tips are provided to assist consumers prior to making any contributions:

  • Don't judge an organization based on an impressive sounding name. Find out what it actually does.
  • Be wary of emotional appeals and organizations that have only vague plans for spending the funds they collect.
  • Never give cash. Write a check payable only to an organization-not an individual.
  • Be wary of organizations that offer to send a 'runner' to pick up your donation. Reputable charities are willing to wait for your contribution.
  • Consumers have the right to ask for an organization's financial report and its federal tax identification number-the latter of which you'll need to claim your contribution as a tax deduction.
  • If an organization is not registered, contact the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA. source: Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Anyone who believes they are the victim of a scam may call the Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA.

Related Link - Tsunami Email "Phishing" Scams