FBI Portland
Portland Media Office
(503) 460-8060
September 15, 2020

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Disaster Fraud

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against charity fraud.

It’s likely you know a friend or family member who had to evacuate their home… maybe even someone who has lost their home in the devastating wildfires we have seen in Oregon in recent days. Social media feeds and the news are filled with heartbreaking images of entire towns wiped out and people struggling to get by. It is a time for our community to come together to help our neighbors.

As you consider how you want to help or to which organizations you want to donate, though, we just want you to be careful. For obvious reasons, charity scams spike after significant events like these fires.

Fraudsters prey on your feelings of helplessness. They create fake social media accounts and websites to make it easy for you to give. Just click the link, and you will feel like you’ve made a difference. Unfortunately, if you pick the wrong organization, those most in need will never see your donation.

Along with the Federal Trade Commission, we offer these tips for safe giving:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust.
  • Designate the donation to go to a specific disaster relief effort as opposed to a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails, texts, or social media posts.
  • Verify the legitimacy of any solicitation by contacting the organization directly through a trusted contact number.
  • Do your research. Use the the Federal Trade Commission’s resources to examine the track record of a charity.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to, but not exactly the same as, those of reputable charities.
  • Avoid charities that ask for you to pay by cash, gift card, virtual currency, or wire transfer.
  • Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
  • Know that most legitimate charity websites end in .org rather than .com.
  • Make contributions directly, rather than relying on others to make a contribution on your behalf.

Those affected by the fires can use your help—and there are plenty of legitimate charities out there to do that work. You just need to do your research before giving.

If you have been victimized by a charity fraud scam or any other online scam, be sure to file a report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.