If You're Asked to Do This for a Good Cause, It's "Probably a Scam," FBI Warns
Criminals could be looking to steal your money or your personal information.
Most of us want to believe we're good people, and in turn, want other people to see us as such. We know it's important to help out whenever there's a good cause, because donating or volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Unfortunately, scammers are not opposed to taking advantage of people's good nature. In fact, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is now warning Americans about a scam designed to appeal to your humanitarian instincts. Read on to find out what good cause you should be wary about.
Americans are losing billions to scams every year.
Don't get too confident in your ability to avoid scammers, because Americans are losing more money than ever to fraud these days. In Feb. 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released data showing that consumers had lost over $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021. According to the agency, this is a more than 70 percent increase in losses compared to the previous year.
For these losses, the FTC received fraud reports from over 2.8 million consumers, with most people falling victim to imposter scams. Over $2.3 billion of the money lost in last year was due to imposter scams, according to the agency. Now, the FBI is warning Americans about a specific scheme to look out for.
This scam makes you think you're helping a good cause.
A recent event has criminals scheming in new ways, according to the FBI. The agency's Tampa division took to Twitter on Sept. 30 to warn Americans about con artists using the latest natural disaster to target victims. "Watch out for scammers trying to use a natural disaster like Hurricane Ian to steal your money, your personal information, or both," the FBI Tampa Office wrote.
Another warning came from the agency's Miami branch that same day, urging people in the U.S. to exercise caution right now. "Beware of charity fraud in the wake of natural disasters," the FBI Miami Office wrote in a Sept. 30 tweet.
"Charity fraud schemes seek donations for organizations that do little or no work—instead, the money goes to the fake charity's creator," the agency explains. "While these scams can happen at any time, they are especially prevalent after high-profile disasters. Criminals often use tragedies to exploit you and others who want to help."
Scammers will likely ask you to donate in a specific way.
You can be targeted by a charity scam in different ways. This includes through "emails, social media posts, crowdfunding platforms, cold calls, etc.," according to the FBI. But there is one clear tell that might help you realize you're dealing with criminals and not charities: The agency says that you should only be asked to donate to an organization by using a check or a credit card.
"If a charity or organization asks you to donate through cash, gift card, virtual currency, or wire transfer, it's probably a scam," the FBI warns. As AARP further explains, these payment methods are preferred by scammers "because the money is difficult to trace."
The FBI is asking you to report any suspected charity scams.
The FBI advises Americans to "only give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust." This is especially important during recent high-profile disasters, like Hurricane Ian, when new scam organizations will pop up with claims that they aid victims.
"Do your homework when it comes to donations," the FBI Miami Office said. "Research charity reviews online, state regulators of charities, and charity reports and ratings via the Better Business Bureau."
But don't just move on if you think you've spotted a scam trying to capitalize on disaster relief donations for Hurricane Ian. Both the FBI Tampa and Miami Office are asking people to report suspected hurricane-related fraud, either to the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) National Center for Disaster Fraud or to the FBI. "Don't let criminals capitalize on crisis," the FBI Miami Office tweeted on Oct. 2.