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Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert about possible scams involving nonprofits and charities taking place in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The agency warns that some common scams include impersonating charities to get money or private information. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations.
Tips for charities to share with possible donors to help them avoid scams:
• Donate to recognized charities.
• Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities may also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website, www.fema.gov.
• Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists may use this information to steal your identity and money.
• Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
• Call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number, 866-562-5227, if you are a hurricane victim with specific questions about tax relief or disaster related tax issues.
Scam artists can use a variety of tactics such as operating bogus charities and contacting people by telephone to solicit money or information that can be used to steal the victims’ identities or financial resources.
Bogus websites mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities, to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources. Scammers also often send e-mail that steers the recipient to bogus websites.
Taxpayers suspecting disaster-related frauds should visit IRS.gov and search for “Report Phishing.” More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.”