New scams and fraud attempts often surface after natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods. Usually, these take the form of donation requests from fraudulent charitable organizations. The scam emails may contain links or attachments that direct users to phishing or malware-infected websites.
Here are a few tips for avoiding disaster-related scams and fraud:
- Donate to charities you know and trust. Find a charity with a proven track record for assisting with disasters. Websites such as Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance can assist you in finding legitimate charities if you are unsure.
- Be wary of charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events, or “look alike” websites resembling legitimate charitable organizations and international aid efforts.
- Never click on links or open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is. Opening attachments — even in emails that appear to be from friends or family — can install malware on your computer, so always be cautious.
- Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate or have been vetted. With the ready availability of "crowdfunding" sites like Go Fund Me, you may not have the ability to confirm how funds are being used. Research the charitable organization yourself before making a donation.
- Keep your antivirus and other computer software up-to-date.
We also recommend checking with the National Credit Union Foundation, which offers its online disaster relief system CUAid.coop to raise money for credit union people affected by natural disasters. 100% of the donations given to CUAid will go towards disaster relief.
Additional tips are available from the Federal Trade Commission.