News and Information
January 21, 2010

Attorney General Provides Tips to Avoid Scam Charity Appeals Following Haiti Earthquake

Virginia Attorney General Bill Mims is offering tips to help Virginians avoid charity scams claiming to benefit those affected by the massive earthquake in Haiti.

As Virginians consider making donations to charities that can assist those in Haiti, the attorney general warns to be aware that some operate scams under the guise of relief aid to Haiti.

Unfortunately, scammers use disasters such as this to set up fake charities where the money collected is pocketed by the scammer.  

The attorney general encourages potential donors to take common-sense precautions before making any contributions. There are many legitimate organizations that provide relief to disaster victims. Always follow these tips when considering a charitable donation:

  • Only give to disaster relief charities you know are reliable.
  • Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity.
  • If contributing over the Internet, be sure the Web site you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate. Make sure the Web site is secure and offers protection of your credit card number.
  • Beware of "copy-cat" names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Be cautious of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. They may not have the infrastructure to get your donation to the affected area or people.
  • Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately.
  • Ask for information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible. 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.
  • Verify the charity’s registration with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs at 804-786-2042 or 1-800-552-9963 (if calling within Virginia but outside the Richmond area).

WHO TO CONTACT

Report charitable solicitation fraud and other consumer fraud to the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Consumer Affairs at the following addresses and telephone numbers:

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Antitrust and Consumer Litigation Section
900 East Main St
Richmond, Virginia 23219
804-786-2116 (phone)
804-786-0122 (fax)
consumer@oag.state.va.us

OFFICE OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS
P.O. Box 1163
Richmond, Virginia 23218
804-786-2042 or 1-800-552-9963
804-225-2666 (fax)
http://www.vdacs.state.va.us/index.html

Updated: Jan 21, 2010