Va. Attorney General warns of Hurricane Harvey donation scams

People take shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center after flood waters from Hurricane Harvey inundated the city on August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. – As Texas recovers from Hurricane Harvey, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring is encouraging Virginians to exercise caution as they consider donating money to assist victims in their recovery. 

"Virginians have to be cautious and smart about their donations, because the sad truth is there are pathetic people out there who will try to exploit a disaster like this to line their own pockets," Herring said.

Prior to making any contributions, Herring encourages people to take some common-sense precautions. 

Always follow these tips when considering a charitable donation:

  • Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster.
  • Only give to charities and fundraisers you can confirm are reliable and legitimate.
  • On crowdfunding sites:
    • Check the creator or page owner's credentials and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness.
    • Look for indicators of endorsement or legitimacy that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization.
    • Be cautious, and if you feel uneasy, contribute to a more established charity in the community.
  • Beware of "copycat" names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity.
  • Do not be pressured into giving.
  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number.
  • Just because a "charity" has a tax identification number does not mean your contribution is tax-deductible.
  • Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation. For security and tax record purposes, you may wish to pay by credit card.
  • If contributing over the Internet, be sure the website you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate.  See if other legitimate websites will link to that website.
  • If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, verify its registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs ("OCRP") at 804-786-1343, or by searching OCRP's Charitable Organization Database online: http://cos.va-vdacs.com/cgi-bin/char_search.cgi .
  • While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean that the organization will be effective in aiding victims of a particular natural disaster.


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