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Philippines Charity Warns of Relief Scams

Scambook, the Internet’s leading consumer advocacy platform, is warning consumers to watch out for disaster relief scams exploiting the Typhoon Haiyan disaster in the Philippines. As occurs after any international tragedy, scammers will attempt to divert donations to fake online relief funds and thereby steal aid from the victims who need it.

More countries and individuals are offering assistance to relief funds as the recent tragedy continues to face its aftermath. Scambook advises the public to restrict donations to well-established organizations such as the Red Cross, which already has the infrastructure to help disaster victims and distribute donations efficiently.
To spot fraudulent charities and know the best defense against these types of scams, Scambook recommends the following tips:

  • Research the organization online. Contact the State Attorney General or the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) to find out if the organization is officially registered. Scambook also recommends watchdog sites and Additionally, consumers can find information about charity websites by visiting and searching for the website domain. This will enable them to see when the website was first registered. If the site did not exist until very recently, it’s more likely to be a scam.
  • Don’t trust viral stories from supposed victims. In the wake of a natural disaster, dozens of heart-breaking stories circulate social media and email. Many of these stories prove false but harmless, while others may include a PayPal link for donations. Don’t give money to someone online who claims to be a victim unless you know them personally and can verify the claims.
  • Don’t give in to pressure to donate. Even in times of immediate need, a legitimate charity will never pressure anyone to donate. If an individual soliciting donations is rude or threatening, or refuses to answer questions, it’s unlikely that they’re representing a real charity. Call the organization they claim to represent and report the incident. Violent threats or continued harassment should be reported to local law enforcement.
  • Stop and remember past donations. Charity scammers often try to build trust with victims by calling, emailing or sending mailers that thank them for making a past donation.  If contacted, Scambook advises individuals to pause and think about the history with this supposed charity. A legitimate charity representative will be able to provide the date of the individual’s donation or other verifying information. If the caller cannot do this, it’s a red flag. Donors should always keep receipts and other records of donations for this purpose.
  • Watch out for unsolicited text messages. Individuals are warned to be very cautious if they receive an unsolicited text message asking for donations. Although many legitimate charities can receive donations via text message, it is highly unlikely that they will send out a text asking for help without prior notification. Scambook advises individuals to rely on their gut instinct and find other ways to donate if a text message appears suspicious.

Since the total damage of Typhoon Haiyan is still being assessed, Scambook is reminding the public that legitimate charities and relief funds will still be collecting donations several weeks and months from now. Consumers can wait to donate until they have properly vetted any potential charity or relief fund.
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