Va. attorney general: Avoid scams when giving to hurricane victims

Helen McKoy walks down a flooded street in her neighborhood as Florence continues to dump heavy rain in Fayetteville, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. "I've never seen it like this before," said McCoy of the rising water down the street from her home. "Whatever God got for me he's going to give it to me. He said he's going to take care of us and that's what I'm going to have to live on." (AP Photo/David Goldman)

WASHINGTON — As with any natural disaster, Hurricane Florence has brought out the best in people, with many donating to organizations that are assisting victims.

That generosity, unfortunately, also can bring out the worst in other people who see the disaster as an opportunity to prey on the generous.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is encouraging those generous souls to be careful when writing a check or sharing a credit card number.

“Folks must be smart and cautious when donating to hurricane-focused charities,” Herring said Monday in a statement, “because the sad truth is there are immoral people out there who will take advantage of a natural disaster to line their own pockets.”

Among the many tips that Herring shared on Monday:

Don’t be pressured: And be especially cautious if a charity is the one initiating contact.

If a charity is new, be skeptical: Even if it is legitimate, it might not have the infrastructure or experience to get help to those in need.

Beware of “copy-cat” names: It’s one way that scammers try to win donors’ trust.

Research any crowdfunding page: Check the owner’s credentials. Look for any indication of legitimacy or endorsement. If you still feel uneasy about donating, just move on and contribute to a charity that’s more-established.

Avoid cash donations, and make checks payable to the charitable organization, not a person: Paying by credit card is another option for security and tax purposes.

Request written information about the charity: Legitimate organizations will share their name, address and telephone number and other information about their mission and how donations are used.

If contributing over the internet, be sure the web site is legit: Does it belong to the charity? Will other legitimate sites link to it? Will it protect credit card numbers?

See more tips for smart donating on the Virginia attorney general’s website.

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