United States Attorney John Walsh alerts public to beware of disaster fraud in aftermath of recent floods
DENVER – United States Attorney John Walsh today urged Colorado residents and businesses to be aware of the potential for fraud in the aftermath of the recent devastating floods. The United States 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.
“Victims and donors alike should use care in deciding who to do business with,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “Unfortunately there are some who prey on the vulnerable or desperate. Before giving money to an organization, do your research to ensure it is a legitimate relief agency. Also, before you hire a contractor, do your research to ensure that they are a legitimate, reputable business.”
U.S. Attorney Walsh also noted that scams come in all forms - email, phone calls and mail solicitations. He urges Coloradans to be vigilant and cautious before giving anyone your personal information.
Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
* Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, and do not click on links contained within those messages, as they may contain computer viruses.
* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via email 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 emails 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 of who you are dealing with 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.
Before hiring a company to repair or restore your property, check with the numerous entities that track the legitimacy of those companies, including the Better Business Bureau. Rely on companies with a track record, not those that established themselves overnight.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of flood 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.