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Be careful when giving to hurricane relief efforts, experts say

September 27, 2018

Donations gathered during the WRAL Here to Help Hurricane Relief drive were delivered to New Bern, Lumberton and Newport on Sept. 25, 2018.

Natural disasters always bring out the best in people who want to help their neighbors in need, but they also bring out the worst in scammers.

State Attorney General Josh Stein and nonprofit leaders said Wednesday that people looking to give money to Hurricane Florence relief efforts need to be very careful.

“There are criminals out there who will take advantage of people’s generosity and pocket the money that you want to go to help other people,” Stein said during a news conference. “Already, my office is investigating five alleged instances of charity scams.”

Because it will likely be months or years before some communities recover, officials said, it’s important to keep your guard up for sob stories and other questionable pleas for money.

“Do not give to a charity that calls you or emails you or contacts you on the internet or because they have some compelling-sounding name that they tell you or because there’s an impassioned Kickstarter campaign that you saw on social media,” Stein said. “You have no idea of knowing if those entities are legitimate organizations or not.”

Legitimate relief groups responding to this disaster, such as food banks, the Salvation Army and the United Way, don’t solicit money directly from people, he said.

State AARP President Doug Dickerson noted that older people are most commonly targeted for charity scams. So, he offered a few tips for safe giving:

Decide now how much you’re going to donate and to whom. That will help you resist scam appeals.

Do a little research. You can find good information online at sites like Guidestar or from the Attorney General’s Office or the Secretary of State’s Office.

Donate by credit card, not cash, which can’t be traced or recovered.

Stein asked that anyone who has been approached by a scammer or fallen victim to one – or knows someone who has – report it by using the Attorney General’s Office toll-free hotline at 877-5-NOSCAM.

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