Scams crop up after every large scale tragedy, and, unfortunately, the Boston Marathon bombing and Texas explosion are no exception. Watch out for the following cons:
The most common scams after a tragedy prey on public goodwill. Scammers set up fake charities and/or social media accounts to take advantage of the outpouring of generosity. Already dozens of URLs related to the Boston bombing relief have been registered, and at least one fake Twitter account was shut down. Scammers will likely try the same tricks in response to Texas tragedy.
These charity scams take different forms. Some are outright fronts: scammers raise money in the name of doing good and pocket their collection. Others are phishing scams. Donors are drawn in by fake websites and/or social media. When they click on the link, they find themselves either at a fake "donation form" asking for personal information or a website that downloads malware to their computer. Finally, some owners of fake social media accounts are actually building up followers and "likes" in hopes of selling the account later.
Sensational Video/Photo Cons:
This trick has followed every major news event for the last five years. As soon as the media breaks a big story (large scale tragedies and celebrity deaths are the most popular), scam emails and social media posts appear promoting sensational photos and videos. Fall for the teasers, and you will find yourself at a phishing website or downloading malware to your computer.
So far, emails appearing to contain a link to footage of the bombings (like the one below) are making the rounds. But watch out for similar teasers on Facebook and Twitter too.
Tips for Donating to a Relief Effort:
Make sure your donations are being used wisely. Follow these tips from BBB Wise Giving Alliance and be sure to check out the full list:
- Give thoughtfully. Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity to a questionable or poorly managed effort. Find evaluations of national charities in Wise Giving's directory.
- Check with your state government. About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General's office) before they solicit for charitable gifts.
- Ensure your charity respects victims and their families. Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use names and photographs of the victims. Make sure they do.
- Learn how your money will be used. Watch out for vague appeals that don't identify the intended use of funds.
- Exercise caution with online/email appeals. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites, texts or emails. Use social media recommendations as a starting point, but don't assume that your Facebook friend vetted the charity she/he posted.
For More Information
Learn more about giving wisely in the wake of a tragedy. Check out BBB Wise Giving Alliance's tips.
To find out more about scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper.