CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has issued some tips for consumers who are looking to help survivors of a devastating earthquake in Nepal on April 25.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the earthquake in Nepal over the weekend,” Morrisey said in a statement. “West Virginians are known to be very charitable and giving to others during times of need or crisis. However, some unseemly people may try to take advantage of that kindness.
"Our office urges consumers to do some research on anyone who says he or she is collecting relief money prior to donating. We all want to make sure the money is actually going to those who need it the most.”
After a natural disaster or other emergency, many charities look to ramp up efforts to collect money, food, or supplies to help those affected. Scammers often look to prey on those willing to give their money to a legitimate cause.
Consumers who wish to make donations should follow these tips to ensure they are donating to a reputable agency and that their personal, identifiable information will not be stolen:
- If approached by an unfamiliar charitable organization, gather as much information as you can about the agency, including a contact name, address, phone number, and website, and verify that the entity is legitimate.
- If a donation request is for a local chapter of an organization, verify that they are authorized to solicit funds on behalf of the parent organization.
- Don’t respond to e-mail or social media solicitations for donations, especially if they come from a charity you don’t recognize. In some cases, the e-mail may appear to be from a legitimate organization, but links will take you to a bogus site.
- Be careful of causes that spread only through social media. It’s easy to be moved to action by a sad story or a touching photo, but giving blindly to a cause is never a good idea. Take the time to investigate the groups behind the pleas for help. While personal fundraising sites like GoFundMe.com do provide some safeguards to prevent fraud, it’s nearly impossible to verify every campaign.
- Be cautious of organizations that are formed after a natural disaster or tragedy but do not have the framework in place to provide help or respond.
- If you would like to make a donation, find out how your donation will be used to help.
People who wish to make charitable donations can verify the legitimacy of an organization in a number of ways, including:
- Check with the Secretary of State’s office to see if the charity is registered to solicit donations in West Virginia;
- Research the charity on websites such as charitynavigator.org orguidestar.org; or
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to see if the charity has ever been reported.
Those who believe they have been scammed by a fraudulent charity can call the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808. Or they can file a report online at www.wvago.gov.