NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Justice Department is warning people to beware of disaster fraud in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
After natural disasters, many want to send donations to victim assistance programs and organizations. But officials said you should do your homework before giving to any organization or individual soliciting donations on behalf of storm victims.
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Below are some tips for making sure your donations are going to legitimate charities:
- 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 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.
- 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.
If you think that you've been a victim of fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud by phone at (866) 720-5721, fax at (225) 334-4707 or email at email@example.com.
You can also report suspicious email solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
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