Donate Wisely to Disaster Charities
If you choose to help victims of recent disasters, beware of fraud, identity theft
Updated Nov. 25, 2013
The Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs cautions you to be wise if you choose to donate to victims of the typhoon in The Philippines or other disasters. Make sure your donation goes to victims, not to scam artists.
Beware of bogus and fraudulent charities reaching out to you through emails, text messages, social networking sites, telemarketing, and door-to-door soliciting.
Here are some important tips from the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and the FBI:
- Give to charities you know. You can donate safely through well-known charities like the American Red Cross or UNICEF.
- Be careful with brand-new charities. Some may mean well, but lack the infrastructure to really help. Others may be scam artists. And look out for charities with names that sound like familiar charities.
- Research charities before you donate. Check out the Better Business Bureau or the California Attorney General's office to find out about a charity. Charities in the City of Los Angeles must register with the Los Angeles Police Commission's Charitable Service Section.
- Donít give or send cash. For security and tax-record purposes, pay by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check.
- Give directly to the charity, not the solicitors for the charity or any other people. Solicitors take a portion of the proceeds to cover their costs, which leaves less to help victims.
- Do not give out personal or financial information Ė including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers Ė to anyone who asks for a donation from you. Scam artists use this information to commit fraud or identity theft against you.
- Ask for identification if youíre approached in person. Fundraisers must identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.
- Be skeptical of individuals claiming to be surviving victims or officials, especially if they reach you by email or social networking sites.
Emails, text messages and social media posts
- You donít have to donate if someone contacts you with an unsolicited email, phone call, text message, or post on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. Itís better to give through a legitimate Web site you visited or a legitimate phone number you called.
- Text donations are not immediate. Depending on the text message service the charity uses, text donations can take between 30-90 days to get to the charity. If you want your donation to get to a charity quickly, go to the charity's Web site, call the charity directly or send a check by mail.
- Read the fine print. When you donate by text message, you might also be signing up for future text message updates from the charity. A charity's Web site should have details about what you're signing up for and how to opt out.
- Don't click on links or open attachments from unsolicited emails or social media posts. Some bogus emails claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files but actually contain viruses. Only open attachments from people you know.
If you have a complaint or a question about charities, solicitors and possible scam artists, call the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 593-8222.