Don’t Fall for Fraudulent Charity Scams for Storm Relief
By Christine Hall
While the IRS, state tax agencies and numerous people in the tax and accounting industry are working together to warn tax professionals and their clients about phishing scams, the scams are still all too common. Here’s what you need to know about one of the most recent: Fake charities that take advantage of people’s generosity during times of natural disasters.
Fake Charity Scams Relating to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma
With Texas, Florida and southern Georgia still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many people are wondering how they can help. One of the best ways to do this is by donating to a charity that helps victims affected by natural disasters.
Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of tax scams, taxpayers need to make sure the organization they donate to is not a fake charity set up by unscrupulous criminals looking to make a fast buck or get people’s personal information.
These types of fraudulent schemes usually involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations. Criminals typically send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.
Follow these tips if you want to make a disaster-related charitable donation but avoid falling victim to scam artists:
- Donate to recognized charities. IRS.gov has the tools people need to quickly and easily check the status of charitable organizations.
- Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, “Exempt Organizations Select Check,” which people can use to find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
- Don’t give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords, to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
- Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
- Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it provides complete details on what records to keep.
Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.” More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.” Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.