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's Washington Field Office issued a warning about charity scams.
A South Carolina charity that purported to send military families on vacations to Disney World simply lined the pockets of its founder, who has been sentenced to prison.
A man who operated a bogus charity and duped multiple corporations out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in matching donations will be spending time behind bars.
The FBI reminds the public of the potential rise in charity scams that exploit people’s pockets and generosity in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Federal authorities are issuing warnings to potential donors wishing to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey that unscrupulous scammers may set up shop in the storm’s wake.
An Arizona woman was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of 18 felonies in two separate trials related to her faking cancer and scamming veterans’ charities out of thousands of dollars.
The FBI cautions the public about the risk of fraudulent activity that often rises after natural disasters like the tornadoes that recently tore across the Midwest and South.
History shows scam artists exploit tragedies like the events unfolding in Japan. The FBI says to use caution when making donations in the aftermath of natural disasters.