The Attorney General of Virginia has warned Virginians of potential fake disaster relief charities that often occur during hurricanes.As the cleanup and recovery begins in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Virginia’s Attorney General has advised Virginians to use caution when sending donations to assist hurricane victims with disaster relief. Scammers often will use the veil of hurricanes and other natural disasters to collect donated funds via fake charities that solicit donating parties. Attorney General Mark R. Herring noted that while “the images out of Texas are heartbreaking ... the sad truth is there are pathetic people out there who will try to exploit a disaster like this to line their own pockets.” In Herring’s press statement, he advises Virginians to research any organizations claiming to be collecting disaster relief funds for the devastation in Texas and to be certain that their money will be used in helping those who are in need. He also cautions to be wary of charities that spring up overnight whenever a natural disaster occurs; many organizations can be set up so suddenly that, even if they are legit, they often do not have the capability and experience to assist the affected communities and people. If a certain charity seems questionable, those wishing to donate to disaster relief should simply just donate to a well-established charity, like The Red Cross.
The Attorney General also advises that donors be on the lookout for “copycat” charity names; names similar to major charitable organizations are characteristic of charity scams. In addition, you should be especially cautious if you're directly contacted by a charity seeking a donation, as legitimate organizations are usually spending their time working in disaster relief efforts and expect donations to come in gradually. Cash donations should also be avoided; paying by check and credit card leaves a paper trail that makes it harder for fake charities to collect under the radar. In Virginia, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) maintains a database in which reputable charities must be and are registered.