CONSUMER ALERT: Double check before you write a check

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (ADAMS) – Attorney General Curtis Hill warns Hoosiers to be cautious when donating to relief efforts to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian.

“Hoosiers are generous people,” Attorney General Hill said. “They need to know about potential scams that could ensnare those trying to help victims of Hurricane Dorian. Don’t let scammers stop you from donating, but be sure to research organizations before giving them money. Double check before you write a check.”

Donors should stay vigilant toward possible fraudulent solicitations made via emails or phone calls. They should be on the lookout for unscrupulous individuals posing as charities. Donate on your terms. Don’t feel you have to agree to donate during a telephone solicitation or by responding to an email. You can politely but firmly end a telephone call, or just not respond to an email solicitation, then research the charity before agreeing to donate. Then, if you’re comfortable giving to the charity, you can contact the charity directly to make the donation. Here are some tips:

Search online for the cause you care about — like “hurricane relief” or “homeless kids” — plus phrases like “best charity” or “highly rated charity.” Once you find a specific charity you’re considering giving to, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.” If you find red flags, it might be best to find another organization.

Check out the charity’s website. Does it give information about the programs you want to support, or how it uses donations? How much of your donation will go directly to support the programs you care about? If you can’t find detailed information about a charity’s mission and programs, be suspicious.
Use one of these organizations to help you research charities: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and GuideStar.

If you’re considering giving to a crowdfunding effort (for example, through GoFundMe) examine the background and expertise of the individual or group raising money and the exact path of the funds. You may be able to instead donate directly to a local organization in the area affected.
See what your state’s charity regulator has to say about the charity. In Indiana, it’s the Attorney General’s Office. From another state? Look it up at nasconet.org.

Before you donate through an online portal that lets you choose from a list of charities, read the article Donating Through an Online Giving Portal, available here. It explains how these online giving portals work.
After you’ve donated, always review your bank account and credit card statements closely to make sure you’re only charged the amount you intended to donate. It’s good practice to keep a record of all donations.

As always, consumers who believe they are the victims of scam attempts are asked to report them to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-800-382-5516 or going online and clicking the “File a Complaint” box at the bottom of the page.