Scammers are almost as fast as first-responders: When there’s a tragedy like the Newtown killings and now the Boston bombing, the phony charities quickly follow.
The state Department of Consumer Protection and the attorney general’s office are warning consumers about the potential fakes.
“Once again, we know that compassionate, caring individuals and groups will want to offer whatever assistance they can,” said DCP Commissioner William M. Rubenstein Tuesday. “But because scammers are always poised to exploit tragedy for personal gain, we want to remind donors to beware of the potential for scam charities to proliferate, and to be wary about providing any money in response to emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings or telephone calls in the name of helping victims of Tuesday’s bombings.”
The attorney general’s office offers these tips when considering donations to aid victims of the bombings:
• Donate to well-known, established charities; it is the best way to ensure that your donation is used appropriately. Find a charity with a proven track record that is making help available to the victims, first responders, and families.
• When giving to any organization, designate the preferred use for your donation (e.g. “for the families of Boston Marathon victims”), and do so in writing whenever possible.
• Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone soliciting contributions.
• 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.
• Be extra cautious when responding to e-mail and telephone solicitations on behalf of supposed victims. These methods of solicitation are more likely to be part of a scam.
• Delete unsolicited e-mails and don’t open attachments, even if they claim to contain video or photographs. The attachments may be viruses designed to steal personal financial information from your computer.
• Watch carefully for copycat organizations. Criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identities and donations of generous, unsuspecting individuals. When giving online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate website. You can access accurate links to the sites of each bona fide charity at Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org).
• Social media sites can also perpetuate scams. Do not blindly give via these vehicles. As with any charity, investigate the groups behind such pleas to ensure that they come from a legitimate organization.
• Both the need for donations and the opportunity for giving will be present for some time. Therefore, do not feel pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics. If you feel pressured at all, you are most likely being scammed.
Charities that collect funds in Massachusetts are required to register with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, and donors should confirm that any charity they plan to support is appropriately registered at this web page.