Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Apr 27 2015

WA Officials Team Up to Warn Consumers on Donating Wisely

OLYMPIA — As the death toll climbs in Nepal following the massive earthquake over the weekend, Better Business Bureau along with Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are urging Washingtonians to be on guard for charity scams targeting donors.

“Anytime there’s a natural disaster, scammers will try to take advantage of people’s generosity,” said Tyler Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “When donating to charities, go with ones that are experienced at working with disaster victims.”

“Whenever tragedy occurs, whether it’s the earthquake in Nepal or last year’s landslide in Oso, many people instinctively want to help the victims,” Wyman said. “In times like these, there always seems to be rip-off artists who try to take advantage of others’ generosity. If people want to help the victims in Nepal, they should donate to charities they know and trust. Nobody wants to see this tragedy resulting in donations winding up in a scam artist’s pocket.”

“All of us in Washington and around the country have deep sympathy for the victims and their loved ones at this tragic time,” Ferguson said. “As you look to provide assistance to help those in need, be sure to exercise caution so your hard-earned dollars go to trusted charities, not to scam-artists.”

Consumer protection officials warn of fake charities that may look and sound legitimate online or even hijack the names of well-known organizations. Scammers will often pose as official charity agents and call potential donors, pressuring them to make a donation over the phone.

BBB, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s Office sympathize with the victims and their loved ones of the Nepal earthquake. All three organizations urge donors to give wisely.

  1. Steer clear of high-pressure demands. Take time to research charities and avoid emotional appeals that don’t explain how the charity will help victims. Contact potential charities directly.
  2. Use trustworthy charities. Be sure the charity is equipped and has the resources necessary to help with disaster relief. Review whether a charity meets all 20 standards of accountability at Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Also visit the Secretary State’s Information for Donors page.
  3. Avoid cash donations. Write checks or pay by credit card to charities directly. Scammers will try to convince their victims to wire money or use prepaid debit cards to make a donations. Never give personal information or money to a telephone or email solicitor.
  4. Double-check. Watch for “pop-up” charities with unverifiable background and contact information. Unscrupulous organizations may try to trip up donors by using names that sound similar to reputable charities.
  5. Block social media pleas. Be wary of requests from fake victims or memorial social media accounts. Remember to verify the organization first before giving a penny.

For more tips on giving wisely, check the Secretary of State’s website or call 1-800-332-4483. Victims of a charity scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office and report it to BBB.

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David Quinlan, Senior Director of Public Relations: 206-676-4119 | pr@thebbb.org

Alison Dempsey-Hall, Deputy Communications Director, Office of the Attorney General: 206-442-4482 | alisond@atg.wa.gov

Brian Zylstra, Deputy Communications Director, Office of Secretary of State: 360-902-4173 | brian.zylstra@sos.wa.gov