After the Asian tsunami in 2004, the FBI investigated 170 web sites that preyed on well-meaning donors by mimicking the web sites of well-known charities, and officials say the same will happen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"If the lessons of September 11th and the Asian tsunami are learned, some cold-hearted evil scam artists will use this occasion to perpetrate fraud, lining their own pockets at the expense of hurricane victims," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan.
Many times scam artists will set up a web site that has a name very similar to well-known charities. Some will set up sites that look identical to the official charity's web site, but will have a different web address (URL).
Tips to Avoid ScamsTo avoid being scammed by these crooks, government officials offer the following tips:
- Avoid giving personal data such as social security numbers, dates of birth and bank account information to any organization seeking donations.
- Be sure you are giving directly to well-known organizations, such as the American Red Cross or The Salvation Army.
- Beware if someone thanks you for a previous donation that you did not make, or tries to collect a pledge you did not make.
- Avoid organizations that offer to forward your donation for a "processing fee."
- Beware of organizations that seek a fee to help locate a family member displaced or lost in the disaster.
- Look to see if the web site address ends in .com instead of .org. Most charitable organization's sites have a .org address.