The Internal Revenue Service issued a warning on Tuesday reminding consumers to be cautious about making donations to organizations purporting to support people affected by Hurricane Harvey.
“While there has been an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, people should be aware of criminals who look to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations,” according to the IRS.
Many of the same precautions consumers take to avoid fraud online can prevent them from giving money to scam artists, like double-checking website links to make sure they’re legitimate. Some fraudsters may create an organization with a name similar to a nationally recognized one, hoping their victims won’t notice.
Consumers can also run the name of an organization through the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Select Check tool, which will show organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. The IRS noted that some legitimate organizations, such as churches, won’t show up on this list.
Donating by check or credit card can help clients keep from throwing money to the wrong people, and gives them a way to track donations if they claim them in their tax returns.
The North American Securities Administrators Association released its own scam warning on Wednesday.
“As we are seeing in Texas, natural disasters bring out the best in people, with neighbors helping neighbors. Unfortunately, we know from experience that disasters also can bring out the worst in people, particularly those seeking to profit from the misfortune of others,” Mike Rothman, NASAA president and Minnesota commissioner of commerce, said in a statement.