When disaster strikes, Americans can always be counted on to help. That help comes in countless ways, but often the easiest way to help is by donating money to charities.
Sadly, criminals are just as likely to answer the call after a disaster or emergency as the millions of people who open their wallets. Scammers solicit donations to fake charities and can pose as employees of legitimate charities or federal agencies to dupe disaster victims trying to get disaster relief.
Although some legitimate charities do contact people out of the blue, people should always be suspicious of unsolicited contact.
Taxpayers donating money should keep a few things in mind:
Use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool to find or verify qualified charities. Donations to these real charities may be tax deductible.
Research a charity before sending a donation to confirm that the charity is real and to know whether the donation is tax deductible.
Always get a receipt and keep a record of the donation.
Review bank and credit card statements closely to make sure donation amounts are accurate.
Keep scammers’ tricks in mind:
Legitimate charities do not ask for gift cards, cash, or wire transfers.
Scammers may claim to work for the IRS or another government agency.
Thieves may pose as a representative of a legitimate charity to ask for money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.
Scammers can change their caller ID to make it appear they are a legitimate organization calling from a legitimate phone number.
Scammers make vague and sentimental claims but give no specifics about how your donation will be used.
Scammers set up bogus websites using names that sound like real charities.
Bogus organizations often claim a donation is tax deductible when it’s not.
Disaster victims should know:
Disaster victims can call the IRS disaster assistance line at 866-562-5227. IRS representatives will answer questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues.
Donating to a charity is a great way to help others after a disaster or emergency. If taxpayers suspect a scam or fraud, they can report it to The Federal Trade Commission.
National Center for Disaster Fraud
Publication 3067, IRS Disaster Assistance – Federally Declared Disaster Area
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Mia Verc, CPA; Janice Papais, CPA
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