The National Center for Disaster Fraud, developed by the U.S. Department of Justice during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, reminds the public to be aware of possible fraudulent activity related to relief operations and funding for victims.
Criminals have been known to exploit disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, for personal gain through fraudulent communications or phony websites designed to solicit contributions.
Tips should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information can also be faxed to (225) 334-4707.
The Department of Justice established the center for disaster fraud to investigate, prosecute and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast. Its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud from any disaster.
The public should verify the legitimacy of anyone asking for donations. Solicitations can originate from social media, emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and more.
The center for disaster fraud suggests these tips to avoid being scammed:
Do not respond to unsolicited emails.Be skeptical of charitable organizations or officials who ask for donations via email or social media.Beware of organizations with names similar to reputable charities.Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations.Be cautious of emails with attached images of disasters; they may contain viruses. Open attachments only from known senders.Contribute directly to known organizations instead of trusting others to make a donation.Do not be pressured into contributing; reputable charities do not use these tactics.Avoid sharing personal and financial information that may compromise identity.Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money-transfer services and have websites that end in .org instead of .com.For more information, visit www.justice.gov.