HARVEY SCAMS: What you need to know to give wisely, avoid fake charities

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HARVEY SCAMS: What you need to know to give wisely, avoid fake charities

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David J. Phillip/AP
Water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

As organizations scramble for donations to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, scammers and fraudsters are ready to capitalize.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a division of the Homeland Security Department, issued a statement on Monday warning people to be on the lookout for online phishing scams related to Harvey.

“Users are advised to exercise caution in handling any email with subject line, attachments, or hyperlinks related to Hurricane Harvey, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source,” the statement said.

“Fraudulent emails will often contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites,” the agency said. “Emails requesting donations from duplicitous charitable organizations commonly appear after major natural disasters.”

Some scammers try to steal data, but others are looking for cash.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends donating to charities you know and trust, and to avoid those that seem to have sprung up overnight related to current events.

If giving specifically for Harvey victims, designate the disaster to make sure funds go to the right place, and never assume charity messages posted on social media are legitimate.

The FTC says donors should avoid an organization that does any of the following:

  • Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Won't provide proof that a contribution is tax-deductible.
  • Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics, like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
  • Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
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