LITTLE ROCK – Scenes of destruction left by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina have left many Arkansans wanting to find a way to help. But Arkansans should use caution and take time to research, ensuring their donations are actually used toward helping the victims, according to a news release from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office.
Following natural disasters, the Attorney General’s Office often receives reports of unscrupulous “charities” targeting the kind and generous spirit of Arkansans wanting to assist those in need.
“Scammers often create fake organizations by selecting a name and logo similar to an existing, legitimate organization that actually helps those in need,” Rutledge said. “These scammers provide limited information, while still trying to tug at the heartstrings of potential donors to convince them the ‘charity’ is legitimate. Arkansans must remain vigilant and do research to know how their money will be used.”
Rutledge released the following tips to help consumer give to only legitimate charities:
• Do not fall prey to high-pressure sales tactics as they are often the first sign of an unscrupulous and fraudulent charity.
• Before getting out a checkbook or credit card in response to a phone solicitation, make attempts to determine the validity of the organization by conducting research.
• Get the organization’s name, address, website and phone number, or give directly to a known nonprofit of one’s choice. Make sure the nonprofit organization is registered with the Arkansas Secretary of State.
• Use GuideStar.org to compare nonprofit organizations and to get more information.
• Ask the organization how it will spend the donation.
• Watch out for similar but different organization names as some con artists will use names like those of existing, reputable nonprofits in order to trick consumers.
• Do not give out financial or personal information over the phone or through email to an unknown entity. This information could fall into the wrong hands, or the scammers could use it to steal one’s money or identity.
• Never send cash. Make check or credit card payments for increased security and tax purposes.
• If donating via text message, verify the organization’s number prior to sending information.
• Also be wary of charities that pop up quickly in response to Hurricane Florence and other emergencies. Even if they are legitimate, they oftentimes do not have a system in place to get donations to those in need. Consider giving to an established organization which helps disaster victims in the area.
For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at 800-482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.