WATCH FOR SCAMS: First Financial, the U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, the FBI, and the National Center for Disaster Fraud urge those wanting to give money to assist with victims of Hurricane Sandy to use caution.
Before making a donation of any kind or providing any personal information, 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.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions or claims to be from your bank and lost your information due to outages. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as 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 nonprofit organizations by using Internet-based resources.
- Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those 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.
- Avoid cash donations if possible. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift. Also, do not make checks payable to individuals, make sure it is written out to the charity or organization.
- Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
- Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com. Some are using names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. One way to verify they are legitimate is to check the IRS’s online information on exempt organizations and use the Exempt Organizations Select Check search feature or the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website.
If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of hurricane 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.
In addition, if there has been any fraudulent activity on any of your First Financial accounts, please contact us immediately at 866.750.0100 or email@example.com.