It’s too bad that we have to continually remind our readers about the scams associated with natural disasters and their aftermath. The truth is, as long as there are good people trying to do the right thing, there will be bad guys trying to take advantage.
With the recent tragedy in Japan, there are obviously many individuals who want to help in some way. While most of us can’t go across the Pacific and pick up a shovel or hand out sandwiches, we do want to help somehow. This usually means donating to an organization that can go over and help.
The scammers know this. They will create bogus organizations and solicit money from well-intentioned givers. Only they will pocket the cash and start their plans for a new scam. In 2005, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, over 4,000 fraudulent organizations were created. That’s depressing, but there are some steps we can take to make sure our money gets to the people that need it most.
Give to familiar charities
In most cases, organizations that have been around for awhile will be best suited to get relief to the victims fast. And giving to a charity that has a history attached to it means that you won’t be scammed. Do a little research and make sure that the charity you support has the credentials to back it up. If you’ve never heard of it, it may be a scam.
Verify charities with the IRS
Real charities register with the IRS to ensure that donations are tax-deductible. Even if you’re not in it for the tax deduction, check out the IRS Web site (under the charities page) to make sure the organization is legit. It should only take a few minutes but might make all the difference.
Be wary of e-mails, letters and phone calls
Don’t give to unknown organizations who solicit funds via these methods. Even if you know the charity, it’s probably best not to respond to e-mails, letters or phone calls. If it is an e-mail, definitely don’t open any attachments. If it is a phone call, and you would like to donate, just tell the person that you will go to the Web site directly to give a donation. Go to the main, verified Web site of a known organization to start the giving process ... never go to a page that someone tells you about over the phone or in an e-mail/letter. Scammers are sneaky — they can create fake pages to collect your money.
In the end, it’s important to give to those in need. But it’s also important to make sure you aren’t getting scammed. For more information about how to protect yourself from scammers, give the Computer Guys USA a call at (928) 468-0000. We’ll be here to give you all the help you need to stay safe.
Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC and CEO of “The Computer Guys USA, Inc” with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.