Possible Fraud Schemes:
Solicitations of Donations for Victims of
Prepared by the Fraud Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice
In the wake of the devastation caused throughout the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, members of the public have been receiving e-mails that purport to solicit contributions for victims of Katrina. Some of these e-mails contain references to website names that sound as though they are affiliated with legitimate charitable causes, such as the American Red Cross.
Some of these e-mails may be sent by people with a sincere desire to help, and may contain accurate information. Others, however, bear strong indications that they are fraudulent and that the senders will not provide the donations to the victims, but will keep the money for themselves. In addition, law enforcement authorities are concerned that, as with disaster scenarios of the past, criminals will operate bogus charities by telephone, and will call members of the public, falsely promising to send donations to Katrina disaster-recovery efforts
It is a federal felony for anyone to engage in fraud schemes that use the U.S. mail, interstate telephone or wire communications, or credit cards (18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, 1029), including schemes to defraud would-be donors to charitable causes. Punishment for these types of felonies can lead to terms of up to 30 years in prison. It is also a federal felony for anyone to falsely or fraudulently hold himself or herself out as a member of or an agent for the American National Red Cross for the purpose of soliciting or collecting money (18 U.S.C. § 917). In addition, fraudulent solicitations for supposedly charitable causes may violate other federal or state consumer protection laws.
Members of the public who want to donate money to help Hurricane Katrina victims can choose from a variety of legitimate charitable organizations. These include:
The Katrina Fund, which former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton recently established,
Relief funds that state governments in the disaster area have established,
The American Red Cross, and Other disaster-relief organizations.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself Against Fraud:
If you are asked to donate money to an organization with which you are not personally familiar, check a variety of sources before sending any money – such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance , the Internal Revenue Service's list of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions or your state attorney general.
Members of the public should act cautiously before sending money or giving their credit-card information or personal data, such as passwords or Social Security numbers, over the telephone or the Internet to people soliciting them for donations for disaster relief. Legitimate charitable causes, such as those listed above, do not need to obtain your passwords or Social Security numbers to accept your donations.
Reporting Cases of Fraud:
To report possible fraudulent schemes relating to Hurricane Katrina, please e-mail your information immediately to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). In addition, consumers can call the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Response Center, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) (TTY/TDD 202-326-2502). Because the FTC works closely with the Department of Justice and other federal and state law enforcement agencies on consumer fraud issues, any reports or complaints that you make to the FTC about possible fraud relating to Hurricane Katrina will be made available to law enforcement.
To learn more about Internet fraud, or to contact law enforcement, please consult the following Websites:
U.S. Department of Justice:
Federal Bureau of Investigation:
Internet Crime Complaint Center
U.S. Postal Inspection Service:
Locator for Postal Inspection Service Offices
Federal Trade Commission: FTC
Consumer Fraud Materials
Note: All Web sites to which these pages cross-link are included as a service for the public. Cross-links to non-governmental sites do not constitute an endorsement or approval of their content, or of the organizations responsible for that content, by the Department of Justice.
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