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Red Cross, IRS warn of fraud, scamming during storm relief

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The Internal Revenue Service warns the public of possible fake charity scams emerging due to Hurricane Harvey.

IRS spokesperson William Brunson said in a news release Tuesday while there is an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, people should be aware of criminals taking advantage of generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information.
“Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations,” Brunson said. “Criminals often send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes.
“These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.”
Both the federal agency and the American Red Cross encourage people to practice caution and make their donations to recognized charitable groups.
“At this time, a lot of organizations, and a lot of people come up and say that they’re collecting donations,” said American Red Cross disaster program specialist Adam Barber. “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of fraud that comes as well.”

Barber said while there are many who do have good intentions, there are also those who can make false claims.
“We really suggest people go to a well-known, well-established nonprofit organizations, and go directly to their website,” Barber said. “A lot of times, you’re going to see a Facebook post that says, ‘Text this number and then you’ll automatically donate!’
“I would say double-check on that, verify that that it really is going to that right place, and the easy way to do that is go to their website.”
In addition to donating to recognized charities, the IRS advises to never give or send cash, as well as provide personal financial information “such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution,” Brunson continued. “Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.”
Barber said disastrous situations such as this are unfortunately, always a big deal.
“We want people to make sure their donation goes to where they want it,” Barber said “We want to make sure that they don’t get their identity stolen, they don’t get their credit cards and bank accounts stolen by these fraudsters. We just say definitely check the websites.”
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.