IRS Issues Warning About Charity Scams Connected to Tropical Storm Harvey
8/30/2017 2:22 PM
Fraudulent charitable organizations could surface since the storm hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 25, but resources are available to help support reputable charities.
The Internal Revenue Service is warning those interested in donating to charitable groups helping people in the path of Tropical Storm Harvey to be wary of possible fake charity scams.
On behalf of the ACA International family, we continue to extend our thoughts and prayers to everyone impacted by Tropical Storm Harvey and reach out to offer our support to our industry members in Texas and the members of the ACA of Texas who are suffering from the catastrophic flooding caused by this storm. It first hit Texas as a category four hurricane on Aug. 25, and as a tropical storm landed in Cameron, La. Aug. 30, heading northeast, The Washington Post reports.
“While there has been an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims of [Tropical Storm] Harvey, people should be aware of criminals who look to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations,” the IRS reports in a news release.
The sites created in these scams often have names that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes, according to the news release. “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,” the IRS reports.
Visit the IRS website for a database of qualified charities with a search feature to quickly and easily check the status of charitable organizations.
Other IRS tips for avoiding scams when donating to charitable organizations include:
- Be sure to donate to recognized charities;
- 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. Use the IRS database search feature to check these names if you receive an email or letter seeking donations;
- 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; and
- 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 also provides complete details on what records to keep.
If you do suspect fraud by email, visit the IRS website and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.”
Here is a list of other key resources:
- The IRS and U.S. Small Business Administration have information about disaster relief;
- The Federal Communications Commission is also providing regular communications updates for areas impacted by the storm in its online newsroom;
- The American Red Cross is helping the people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and all across the Gulf Coast. If you are interested in helping, you can donate by calling (800) RED CROSS or texting the word HARVEY to 90999;
- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has also established a donation fund through the Greater Houston Community Foundation, USA Today reports;
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has additional resources available.
If your company is working on fundraising efforts to help the victims of the storm or is affected by the storm and would like to share your story, please send an email to ACA’s Communications Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, Attn: Katy Zillmer.
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