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Florida Attorney General’s Office warns: Beware of Hurricane Dorian donation scams

By Staff | Sep 5, 2019

The Office of Attorney General Ashley Moody has issued tips for those planning to donate to Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.

“Hurricane Dorian is a deadly storm, and thankfully Florida was spared a direct hit,” Moody said in a prepared statement issued Thursday. “Sadly, our friends in the Bahamas weren’t so lucky. Unfortunately, when we see catastrophic events like these, we also see scammers rush in to prey on the good intentions of generous Floridians. Before you give to organizations seeking donations for Bahamas-restoration efforts, please take steps to ensure your donation is going to legitimate charities and entities.”

Tips for anyone wishing to donate to assist recovery efforts include:

* Never give credit card numbers, gift card account numbers or bank account information to a caller on the phone or in response to an unsolicited email;

* Before donating over the phone or online, take steps to verify the charity or fundraising campaign;

* Avoid solicitors that use high-pressure tactics;

* Watch for charities with similar-sounding names. It is not unusual for scammers to choose names that sound like the names of legitimate, widely-known charities;

* Look up charity on CharityNavigator.org before giving;

* Research and review the organization carefully to understand how much of the donation will actually go towards the work of the charity as opposed to administrative expenses and overhead; and

*Check with the Internal Revenue Service to see if the tax-exempt organization filed an annual return or notice with the IRS. The IRS requires automatic revocation of a charity’s tax-exempt status if it fails to return for three consecutive years. Publication of an organization’s name on the Auto-Revocation List helps potential donors determine the status of a charity. To learn more, go to IRS.gov and search the Charities and Non-Profits topics.

Moody also offers the following tips to help donors spot and avoid crowdsourcing charity scams:

* Research the webpage creator’s background and reviews before donating;

* Know that there are many different crowdsourcing platforms, each with different terms of use and fraud investigation practices;

* Check to see if the platform offers protections to donors should a campaign be fraudulent;

* Determine what percentage of any funds raised will go to the charity and what percentage goes to the platform; and

* Search to see if there are any identical or extremely similar campaigns.

The United States Agency for International Development’s Center for International Disaster Information has created a website concerning Hurricane Dorian relief. It provides resources and information regarding charities providing aid to the Bahamas. That website can be viewed at www.cidi.org/hurricane-dorian/#.XXF_I4Und7M .

Anyone with concerns about a fraudulent charity or crowdsourcing charity can report those concerns to the Attorney General’s Office online at MyFloridaLegal.com or by calling (866) 9NO-SCAM.