Ohio AG Warning About Hurricane Charity Scams

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's attorney general is offering tips to those who want to donate to help Florida recover from Hurricane Irma. 

"Hurricane Irma has left a lot of destruction in her path and the people of Florida and the Caribbean will need help to recover. The people of Ohio are generous, and it's important that their donations go where they intend," Attorney General Mike DeWine said. "We're offering these tips to help people make informed decisions, avoid scams, and make sure their donations are used the way they would like."

The Attorney General's office says there are several signs of a potential charity scam, including:

  • High-pressure tactics
  • No details about how your donation will be used
  • Refusal to provide written information about the charity
  • Organizations with names that sound similar to other better-known organizations
  • Requests for donations made payable to a person instead of a charity
  • Offers to pick up donations immediately versus in the mail or online.

DeWine's office also offer these tips for making charitable donations after a natural disaster:

  • Carefully review donation requests. Do some research to make sure your donation will be used as intended. After a natural disaster or national tragedy, some sham charities pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites have been vetted. The first donation request you find may not be the best. 
  • Evaluate charities using resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (or the offices of other state attorneys general), IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar. 
  • Beware of “look-alike” websites or accounts. Be skeptical of charities or groups with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. They may be intended to confuse donors. If you receive a message from an organization asking for a donation, confirm that the request truly is from the organization, and not an impostor, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website. 
  • Be careful when giving to newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a natural disaster or tragedy have good intentions but lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Established charities are more likely to have experience to respond following a tragedy and to have a track record that you can review.  
  • Check out crowdfunding campaigns before donating. If you want to make a contribution using a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising site, find out how your donation will be used before donating. Try to determine which campaigns are legitimate and supported by those close to the tragedy and which haven’t been vetted. (Some people ask for donations claiming to help victims but ultimately keep the money for themselves.) Also consider how much of your donation will go to the website itself or whether you will be charged any fees for making the donation. Find out how the website will use your personal information. Be wary of sites that don’t provide a privacy policy.
  • Review claims carefully. Some groups sell merchandise online and claim that “100 percent of the proceeds” will benefit a specific charitable purpose, but this claim does not necessarily mean 100 percent of the sales price will go toward the cause. Contact the organization to ask how much of each purchase will support the cause. If the organization cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.
  • Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. If you want to set up a fundraiser for a particular charity, contact the organization in advance and determine how you can properly collect donations.

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