In the aftermath of disasters, relief agencies appeal to citizens for monetary donations to aid those in devastated areas. But the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are also appealing to citizens to beware of scams from fraudulent groups that seek only to make a profit for themselves.Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
"Recent history, including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ivan; the tsunamis in Asia; and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has shown that some criminals seek to profit from disaster by means of fraud," a Sept. 3 press release from the BBB of Southeast Texas states.
"The BBB and the FBI ask that individuals beware of e-mails claiming to seek donations for Hurricane Gustav relief efforts. The BBB and FBI will be checking for fraudulent websites and e-mails and will thoroughly investigate all complaints," the statement added.
The BBB makes the following suggestions to protect citizens:
Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations.
Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to recognized organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization's website rather than following an alleged link to the site.
Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which also may assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization.
Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and expose you to identity theft.
"Before making a donation, make sure it goes to a legitimate charity," said Michael Clayton, president/CEO of the BBB in Southeast Texas. "Southeast Texans can be very kind, but we don't want them to be exploited in times of crisis. The BBB wants to help make sure that the money and support reaches the intended recipients (the victims of Hurricane Gustav) and that people who donate do not become victims themselves."
To receive the latest information about cyber-scams, please go to www.fbi.gov and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes.
If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov. For more information on e-scams and to investigate a charity, visit www.bbb.org.
In Southeast Texas, call 409-835-5348 or 800-685-7650.