Roy Cooper, NC Attorney General
Raleigh, NC -- For many people, lending a helping hand is second nature when it comes to providing relief after a tragedy or natural disaster.
NC Attorney General Roy Cooper cautions those who want to help victims of Hurricane Sandy to avoid schemes and fake organizations.
"The lowest of the low use catastrophes like this to line their own pockets," Cooper said. "Don't let phony charities divert your donations from those who really need our help."
In previous disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and even the Pacific Ocean tsunamis, "relief" groups collected money that never reached the victims.
"We want to encourage people who are able to help those in need to do so, but do a little homework first so that your contributions can do the most good possible," Cooper said. "And if you suspect that a request to donate is a scam, report it to my office."
If you are interested in helping people affected by Hurricane Sandy, the American Red Cross is accepting money and blood donations.
Here are some additional tips from the NC Attorney General's Office:
• Don't respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to donate. Even if the message looks legitimate, it could be an example of phishing-when scammers use the names and logos of real organizations to try to steal your money. The messages may include links to copycat web sites of legitimate charities to try to trick donors. If you want to donate, contact the charity at a website or phone number you know to be valid.
• Watch out for pushy telemarketers. Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you for a credit card number are usually up to no good. Also, some telemarketers keep up to 90 percent of the money the give to charities. Your money will go further if you give directly to the organization, not to hired fundraisers.
• Don't give cash. Avoid giving cash gifts that can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it's best to pay by credit card. If you pay by check, make it out to the charity itself, not the fundraiser.
• Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don't know who calls you, and don't share personal financial information by email or text message. If you donate online, use a secure website. Look for a lock icon and a web address that starts with "https".
• Check out charities before you give. Visit www.give.org to see if national charities meet the standards set by the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, and www.charitywatch.org for ratings of charities by the American Institute of Philanthropy. For detailed financial information about a charity, contact the NC Secretary of State's office at (888) 830 4989 or www.secretary.state.nc.us/csl, or visit www.guidestar.org.