Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Oct 24 2014

Joint release with the Office of the Secretary of State

OLYMPIA - Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are urging consumers to be aware of scam artists exploiting the public’s fear of Ebola.

The two statewide officials said rip-off artists follow media coverage of natural disasters and health scares and then attempt to victimize well-intended charitable donors.

“When there is a natural disaster or health-care emergency, scam artists unfortunately try to take advantage of people’s compassion or fear,” Wyman said. “In regards to Ebola, scammers might try to lure consumers into giving money for a cure for Ebola. We hope people think carefully when they come across Ebola-related charities.”

“Investigate the charity before donating money to help ensure you don’t get scammed. Exercise caution to make sure your money helps those who truly need it,” said Ferguson. “In the unfortunate event you do get scammed, contact my office.”

“Scammers play off emotions,” says Tyler Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “Like other disasters, the Ebola scare will generate numerous fundraising opportunities. And while it’s in our nature to help, it is crucial for donors to research charities first, otherwise the money could end up in the wrong hands.”

The BBB, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and the Secretary of State’s Charities Program urge consumers to be cautious when donating to an Ebola-related cause. Here are tips for wise and prudent gift-giving:

  • Be suspicious of solicitors requesting immediate donations. Don’t rush decisions and consider contributing at give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.\
  • Avoid cash donations. Write a check directly to the charity, not the fundraiser.\
  • Never give out credit card numbers over the phone.
  • Be wary of “new” charities with unverifiable background information.
  • Don’t be fooled by a name. Watch out for charities that use sympathetic-sounding names or names similar to well-known legitimate charities.  

The Better Business Bureau, Washington Attorney General and Secretary of State advise consumers to contact potential charities directly. For more information on finding charities, visit BBB’s charity review http://www.bbb.org/alaskaoregonwesternwashington or the SOS charity lookup http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/search.aspx or by calling toll free at 1-800-332-4483. Consumers can also visit the SOS Charities Program webpage at http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/ for tips on giving wisely. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division http://www.atg.wa.gov/Safeguarding-Consumers provides scam alerts and a consumer complaint section. For consumer complaints, call the division at 1-800-551-4636.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

CONTACT:
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Acting Communications Director
Brian Zylstra, SOS Deputy Communications Director, (360) 902-4173, brian.zylstra@sos.wa.gov