Friday, 22 January 2010 00:00
In the wake of the tragic earthquake that struck the nation of Haiti,Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is strongly recommending that persons wishing to donate money to relief efforts do so with caution to avoid scam artists who prey on people’s goodwill.
“The response from ordinary citizens in the aftermath of this horrific tragedy has been overwhelming, especially here in Nassau County,” Rice said. “Unfortunately, there are also people who see these events as a way to scheme and steal. By following a few simple guidelines, however, we can all ensure that every penny donated goes to the people of Haiti. And to those running these fraudulent schemes, I’m going to do everything in my power to find you and arrest you for so heartlessly taking advantage of this international tragedy.”
Before donating, Rice suggests Long Islanders:
• Extensively research any charity or organization that you plan to donate to. Scammers seize on tragedies as opportunities to steal your money. Donate to well known organizations such as the Red Cross who have a history of disaster relief.
• Check on a charity with the Attorney General’s Office, Better Business Bureau, and your local consumer affairs agency. All charities in New York must be registered with the Attorney General.
• Beware of unsolicited spam emails seeking funds for relief efforts, containing attachments, or promising to locate missing loved ones for a fee. These emails can spread viruses and should be immediately deleted. The FBI has received numerous complaints already about bogus emails and websites.
• Trust your instincts. If you are unsure about the charity or agency you are dealing with, untrusting of the person on the other end of the phone, or just uncomfortable with an organization, then don’t make a donation. Common sense is your best weapon against a scammer.
• Never send money to phone solicitors representing charities that you have never heard of. If you are making a phone donation, make the call yourself, and donate to a well-known relief agency.
• Never give any credit card or bank account information to unknown charities over the phone or to door-to-door solicitors.
• When donating online, make sure the website is secure. For example, it should have a lock icon on it or a URL that begins with “https.”
• Donate to a charity that has a history of using a large portion of donations for relief efforts and not for its own operating costs. You can check legitimate charities on the Attorney General’s website to see what percentage goes to relief victims.
• Make sure the charity you are donating to is aware that you want your donation to go to a specific cause.
• Do not donate to a charity that wants to send a courier to pick up the donation. This is a safe bet that the charity is a scam. This also presents a security risk to you at your home.
For more information on charity-related fraud, visit www.charitywatch.org, www.charity navigator.org or www.give.org. If you know of a scam operating in Nassau County or feel you have been the victim of a scam, contact the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office at 571-3505.