Consumer Alert: Be Aware of Scammers Following Fire or Storm Disasters in the United States and Canada
Be cautious when donating to recovery efforts as scammers try to capitalize on goodwill.
The Department of Consumer Protection reminds the public to be cautious of potential scams amid disaster recovery efforts in regions around the country, including Hawaii, California, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada.
“Following any natural disaster, there are opportunities for scammers to take advantage of well-meaning people,” said DCP Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli. “We don’t want to discourage people from giving and helping in times of need, but we remind everyone to do their research and be cautious when choosing where and how to give. When giving, remember to protect your personal information, and when in doubt, trust your instincts.”
Before you donate, review these tips to avoid scams and make sure your donation is used appropriately.
Verify the Registration: All charities soliciting in the State of Connecticut must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection. You can verify a registration at www.elicense.ct.gov.
Do Your Research: Before donating, use online resources like the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch, which all provide information about non-profit organizations, to research charities and review each organization’s website.
Be Cautious of “Look-Alike” Websites: Websites will sometimes try and impersonate legitimate charities. Verify the URL in your browser before giving any money online. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal financial information and may download harmful malware onto your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook or social media are legitimate and have already been scrutinized.
Ask Questions: Ask how your donation will be used and ask the solicitor to be specific. If the answer is vague, be wary. While the solicitor may not know every detail, he or she should be ready to tell you about the charity's mission and any upcoming events. Ask where your donation is going, especially if you prefer your donation to be used locally.
Know Who You Are Talking to: If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity, and not an imposter, by contacting the charity or visiting its website. A legitimate charity will always give you time to verify its identity and do your research.
Listen for Disclosure: If it is important to you, ask the caller if he or she is being paid to make the call. Most telemarketing calls are made by paid solicitors, not charities. Get the name and write it down. Connecticut law requires paid solicitors to tell you this without your having to ask but don't count on them doing so. Be suspicious of anyone who does not volunteer this information.
Know How Much Will Reach Those Impacted: If it is important to you, ask what percentage of your donation the organization will keep. It is up to you to decide whether you feel comfortable with it.
Don’t Be Pressured: Do not donate if the solicitor uses high-pressure tactics, asks for payment in cash, or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation.
Avoid Paying in an Untraceable Form Of payment: Donate by check or credit card, not by wire transfer, gift card, or cash.
Never Give Out Personal Information: Never give out information such as your social security number or bank account numbers over the phone or internet, or to an untrusted source.
Trust Your Instincts: Give with your mind, as well as your heart. If you have doubts about donating to a charity, don’t contribute to it. Instead, find another charity that you feel comfortable with and then make your donation.