Charity fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work—instead, the money goes to the fake charity’s creator.
While these scams can happen at any time, they are especially prevalent after high-profile disasters. Criminals often use tragedies to exploit you and others who want to help.
Charity fraud scams can come to you in many forms: emails, social media posts, crowdfunding platforms, cold calls, etc. Always use caution and do your research when you're looking to donate to charitable causes.
After a natural disaster or other emergency, unethical contractors and other scammers may commit insurance fraud, re-victimizing people whose homes or businesses have been damaged. Sometimes these fraudsters even pretend to be affiliated with the government, when they are not. If you need any post-disaster repairs, do your research before hiring any contractor.
The following tips can help you avoid these schemes:
- Give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust.
- Be aware of organizations with copycat names or names similar to reputable organizations.
- Be wary of new organizations that claim to aid victims of recent high-profile disasters.
- Do your research. Use the Federal Trade Commission's resources to examine the track record of a charity.
- Give using a check or credit card. If a charity or organization asks you to donate through cash, gift card, virtual currency, or wire transfer, it's probably a scam. Learn more about this trick from the FTC.
- Practice good cyber hygiene:
- Don't click links or open email attachments from someone you don't know.
- Manually type out links instead of clicking on them.
- Don't provide any personal information in response to an email, robocall, or robotext.
- Check the website's address—most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com.
- After a natural disaster or other emergency, carefully vet any contractors before hiring them to work on your home or business.
If you're a victim of charity or disaster fraud or have information about these types of schemes, you can:
Public Service Announcements from IC3
03.20.2020 FBI Sees Rise in Fraud Schemes Related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them.
09.20.2017 Fraudsters Capitalize on Natural Disasters
The FBI reminds the public there is the potential for fraud in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
02.10.2015 Scammers May Use Paris Terrorist Attack to Solicit Fraudulent Donations
In the wake of the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris last month, the FBI would like to warn the public about the potential for fraudulent solicitations of donations for victims.
04.25.2013 Beware of Possible Fraud Associated with the Boston Marathon Explosions
The FBI reminds the public there is the potential for fraud in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Related FBI News and Multimedia
The FBI Memphis Field Office is warning Tennesseans to be cautious of charity and disaster fraudsters.
The FBI Columbia Field Office issued a warning this week for the public to be cautious of charity and disaster fraudsters following Hurricane Ian’s impact last week.
Charity fraud schemes can happen at any time, but they are especially prevalent after disasters.
While the Midwest is not subject to the devastation caused by hurricanes, residents can fall prey to hurricane-related fraud attempts by scammers.
The FBI Columbia field office is warning the public to be aware of charity scams following last week’s deadly tornadoes across the southeast and Midwest.
FBI Charlotte is launching a new public awareness message, “Scams change, red flags don’t!” to highlight the common signs of fraud schemes.
The Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment is providing information on protecting yourself from charity fraud.
Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment, building a digital defense against charity fraud.