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In the of wake natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, which unleashed it’s fury on the east coast this week, thousands of caring Hoosiers will want to help. Unfortunately, there are criminals who exploit these tragic events for their own profit.

La Porte residents should use caution before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations or offering to provide assistance after a natural disaster.

Fraudulent solicitations can originate from emails, phony websites, door-to-door collections, telephone calls and mailings.

Don’t let the threat of con artists keep you from extending a helping hand. To research reputable disaster relief and recovery organizations, you can visit legitimate online sources such as guidestar.org, networkforgood.org, or justgive.org.

The FBI and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) recommend that before making donations of any kind, consumers 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.
• Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving 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 non-profit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources.
• Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because the 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.
• Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
• Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
• Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
• Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com.

In addition to raising public awareness, the NCDF is the intake center for all disaster relief fraud. Therefore, if you observe that someone has submitted a fraudulent claim for disaster relief, or any other suspected fraudulent activities pertaining to the receipt of government funds as part of disaster relief or clean up, please contact the NCDF.

If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of tornado 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 disaster@leo.gov.

You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

For full details, view this message on the web.
Posted 11:33 AM  View Comments

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