United States Attorney Announces Disaster Fraud Hotline
Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that with the potential for fraud in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois, along with the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), wants to remind the public of the NCDF hotline.
By calling (866) 720-5721, one can report suspected fraudulent activity pertaining to the relief efforts associated with the recent series of tornados in the Midwest and South. “My Office, as well as the Department of Justice, and the FBI, remind people ‘to apply a critical eye and exercise due diligence’ before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of tornado victims. Sadly, scammers and fraudsters are out there. Please be careful and vigilant in dealing with those who would prey upon your generosity for their own profit.” said United States Attorney Wigginton.
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, 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 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.
– 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 that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of tornado victims, or if you discover fraudulent disaster relief claims submitted by a person or organization, contact the NCDF by phone at (866) 720-5721, fax at (225) 334-4707 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.