CONSUMER ALERT!

Consumer Protection Division
(208) 334-2424 or
Toll-free at (800) 432-3545

Media Contact: Bob Cooper
(208) 334-4112

Date: September 1, 2005

Fraud Often Follows Disaster, Wasden Warns

(Boise) - Attorney General Lawrence Wasden issued a consumer alert today in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy that has struck many Gulf Coast communities.

“When disaster strikes, generous Americans come forward to help those in need. Unfortunately, there are also unscrupulous individuals who view tragedies as an opportunity to take advantage of those willing to open their hearts and their pocketbooks.”

Charitable scams often arise during crisis situations. While there are numerous legitimate organizations providing relief to disaster victims, con artists historically move in after a disaster to collect funds for non-existent charities and pocket the money. Wasden urged Idahoans to consider the following consumer tips before donating to unknown charities.

  • Select a charity you already trust and donate directly to that charity.
  • Beware of telephone solicitors seeking money for disaster relief. You do not know who they are and what they will do with your money. Many telephone solicitors will keep a substantial part of your donation as their own profit.
  • Do not give your credit card number to a solicitor.
  • Never give cash. Contribute by check payable to the organization, never to an individual's name.
  • Be wary of out-of-state organizations, especially if their only address is a Post Office (P.O.) Box.
  • Before you agree to contribute, ask for and review the charity’s financial information. Request a copy of the organization’s annual report. Legitimate charities will gladly send you written information when requested.
  • Beware of pressure tactics. Reputable organizations won’t pressure you to give today. They will gladly accept your gift at a future date.
  • Some charitable groups employ paid telephone solicitors instead of using volunteers. If that is the case, not all your contribution will go to the hurricane victims.
  • Not all organizations soliciting are true charities eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. Ask if donations are tax-deductible. Verify information with the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Be wary of emotional appeals and organizations with vague plans for distributing the funds.
  • Do not judge an organization solely on a name that sounds impressive. Many organizations use names similar to well-known charities and organizations. Know who is asking for your money.

Do not respond to unsolicited e–mails seeking contributions.

  • If you receive e–mail claiming to show pictures of the disaster area, do not open the attachments. The files may contain viruses. Open attachments only from people you know.
  • Do not use a link to a charity’s Internet site that you receive by e–mail. It could be a scam to obtain your credit card number or steal your identity.
  • If you want to donate over the Internet, go directly to the Internet site of a charity you know and trust.

“I know many Idahoans will want to help the people in New Orleans and all along the Gulf Coast,” Attorney General Wasden said. “This advice is intended to help Idahoans be sure that their generosity reaches the people they are trying to help. The message is not that Idahoans should refrain from giving. Rather, it is to encourage those who give to do so wisely.”

Wasden urged Idahoans who have been contacted by individuals they suspect are engaged in deceptive charitable solicitations to call the toll–free Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 432–3545 or (208) 334–2424.

Information about national charities is available from the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at (800) 575–4483 or, on the Internet at www.give.org.

For more information on charitable giving, visit the Consumer Protection section of this website.

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