LITTLE ROCK - Arkansans always demonstrate their compassion and generosity following a tragedy or disaster, and the last few days have been no different. After the Boston Marathon bombing and the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion, Arkansas residents are looking for ways to help those in Massachusetts and Texas.
Many Arkansas consumers will consider donating money to charitable organizations to support victims of the tragedies and ongoing relief efforts. Of course, most of those donations will aid those who they are intended to aid, however some callous and opportunistic con artists may use these events as ways to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.
Accordingly, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this special consumer alert today to remind Arkansans to donate only to reputable charities and to offer advice to consumers on how they can know whether a charity is legitimate.
"The people of our state stand ready to help others after every disaster, and that generosity and kindness are unmatched anywhere else," McDaniel said. "What is disappointing is that we often see criminals who try to exploit that generosity and kindness for their own gain by engaging in charity scams following tragedies."
Aside from charity scams, another way fraudsters attempt to capitalize on consumers' goodwill is through emails and social media posts promoting dramatic photographs or video footage of the events. Most often, the links to the supposed photos or videos are attempts to steal a consumer's personal or financial information, or they are ways to install malicious software or viruses on a consumer's computer. McDaniel urged consumers not to open emails from people they do not know who claim to be publicizing such photos or videos.
When donating to a charity, McDaniel said consumers should keep the following tips in mind:
- Always ask questions before giving to any organization. Ask specifically about the organization's mission, ask how the donation will be used, and ask whether the donation will be tax-deductible.
- Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate charities will not attempt to rush consumers to donate.
- Never send cash. For security and tax purposes, make donations by check or credit card. Also, make checks or money orders payable to the charitable organization, not an individual.
- To avoid falling victim to sham solicitors, contact a charity directly before giving a donation online or providing financial information to someone going door-to-door or on the telephone.
- Don't fall for scams in which the con artists have an organization that has a name that looks or sounds like that of a respected, legitimate charity.
- Be wary of any organization or individual that offers to pick up a monetary donation personally. A legitimate charity will have an address to which donations may be mailed.
Most charitable organizations that solicit donations in Arkansas are required to register with the Attorney General's Office. McDaniel encouraged consumers to visit the Arkansas Charities Database at www.ArkansasAG.gov to find out more information about specific charities.
For further information, consumers may contact the Attorney General's Public Protection Department at (800) 482-8982 or visit the Attorney General's Consumer Protection website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.