Watch out for Harvey-related scams

Florida AG Bondi offers tips to verify charitable organizations


ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a warning to Floridians wanting to donate money to help relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Texas to watch out for Harvey-related scams.

In a news release sent out Tuesday afternoon, Bondi said that scammers often use natural disasters to prey on the good intentions of others, but there are steps consumers can take to protect against charity-related scams.

“As Floridians, we know all too well the destruction a massive hurricane can cause and how vital charitable donations are in helping communities recover," Bondi said. "But before you give, please take steps to ensure your donation will be used to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, not a scammer exploiting the goodwill of Floridians.”

Bondi recommended that anyone wishing to donate should review the following tips to make sure gifts are used to help victims and Texas communities recover from Harvey:

· Be proactive and donate to a reputable charity, rather than wait to be solicited;
· When giving, consider donating to an established disaster-relief charity, such as RedCross.org;
· Research a charity by using Charity Navigator and by contacting the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to determine whether the charity is registered to solicit donations in Florida;
· Avoid solicitors using high-pressure tactics or hesitant to provide more information about a charitable organization;
· If donating online at a fundraising site, be sure to confirm the identity of the recipient and be careful when providing any personal contact information.

Phil Archer, the State Attorney for Brevard and Seminole counties agreed, and also issued words of warning about charity-related scams to his constituents on his Facebook page. Archer said he sees these kinds of scams following tragic events all the time.

"There are already scams working on the internet either through phone or text or emails trying to get people to donate money to that charity and they will have great names like 'Help Houston' or help the poor people of Houston," Archer said. "If they are a legitimate charity, ask them for their most recent financial statement and that will show how much they spend on services how much they spend on overheard and salaries and if they don't spend more than 65% on services, you need to stay away."

Both Archer and Bondi recommend people visit the following websites to check on their charity of choice:

Floridians can reach the Attorney General’s Office at (866) 9-NO-SCAM, or call the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at (703) 276-0100 to determine if there are any complaints against a charity.

For more information about charity scams and tips to avoid such scams, Bondi urges consumers to review the Attorney General’s Hurricane Preparedness Guide.

Consumers who believe they have been a victim of a scam or other fraudulent activity may file a complaint by calling (866) 9-NO-SCAM, or by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.