U.S. Attorney Alerts Public to Beware of Disaster Fraud in Aftermath of Recent Tornadoes
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 23, 2013|
WASHINGTON—U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma Sanford C. Coats urged Oklahoma residents and businesses today to be aware of the potential for fraud in the aftermath of the recent devastating tornados. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), wants to remind the public that anyone can report fraud involving disaster relief operations through the National Disaster Fraud Hotline, toll-free, at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I urge everyone to exercise caution and due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of tornado victims,” said U.S. Attorney Coats. “Regrettably, there are people out there that will take advantage of this tragedy and your generosity for their own profit. Scams come in all forms—such as e-mail, phone calls, or mail solicitations. Be vigilant and cautious to whom you are giving your personal information, and if it’s not a well-known, reputable charity, please do some research before making a contribution.”
Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
- Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
- Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources.
- Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
- Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
- Be aware with whom you are dealing when providing your personal and financial information. Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
- Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
- Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of tornado victims, if you discover fraudulent disaster relief claims submitted by a person or organization, or if you know about or suspect fraud involving disaster relief operations, you can report it through the National Disaster Fraud Hotline, toll-free, at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at email@example.com. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
“Investigators and prosecutors are ready to respond to credible allegations of fraud and abuse,” said U.S. Attorney Coats. “If you suspect fraud, please report it.”