WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Our charitable nature
leaves us vulnerable to charity fraud schemes. Most charities are
legitimate organizations that support good causes. Some, however, are run
by swindlers. With more than 700,000 federally recognized charities
soliciting for charitable contributions, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
reminds everyone it pays to be cautious when making a donation.
Disasters bring out the best in people who truly desire to help those
impacted by these situations. Unfortunately, disasters also bring out the
worst; scammers take advantage of the circumstances by stealing the
charitable donations intended to help victims of the disaster. Postal
Inspectors saw numerous charity scams emerge in the days following the
devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Southeast Asia earthquake and
tsunami, and the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The recent California firestorm offers a new opportunity for fraudsters
to perpetrate charity scams. If you're considering a contribution to help
with relief efforts, it's important to know where your donation dollars
will go. California Charities can be researched on the Attorney General
website, http://ag.ca.gov/charities or at the Better Business Bureau's Wise
Giving Alliance, http://www.give.org.
Scam artists who use the U.S. Mail to misrepresent charities, may be
prosecuted under the mail fraud statute --- which carries substantial
fines, along with prison terms of up to 20 years.
"For as long as there has been a mail fraud statute, the Postal
Inspection Service has led the way in keeping the mail safe from
opportunistic scam artists who would damage American consumers' confidence
in the mail while trying to make a fast buck for themselves," said
Alexander Lazaroff, Chief Postal Inspector.
"Charity frauds victimize both the giver and the intended recipient.
Postal Inspectors are committed to aggressively investigating those who
misuse our nation's mail system to exploit the kind nature of the American
public," said Los Angeles Division Inspector in Charge B. Bernard Ferguson.
U.S. Postal Inspectors offer these additional precautions:
-- Give donations to known charities, or research new or unfamiliar
-- Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate fundraisers won't push
you to give on the spot.
-- Be suspicious of solicitors who say they can only accept a cash
-- Always make checks out to the name of the charity, never to an
-- Be wary of "sound-alike" charities, many scammers use names that
sound similar to names of legitimate charities.
-- Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember
making. This is a tactic scammers use to lull victims into sending
-- Ask for ID. For-profit fundraisers must disclose the name of the
charity requesting the donation --- it's the law. Many states require
paid fundraisers to identify themselves as such and to name the
charity for which they're soliciting. If the solicitor refuses to
tell you, hang up and report it to law enforcement officials. Also
ask how much of your donation goes to those in need and how much goes
to the fund raiser.
If you believe you've been scammed by a fake charity, contact your
local Postal Inspection Service office at 877-876-2455. Visit our website,
http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov, for additional information or to file a
About the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is one of the oldest federal law
enforcement agencies in the country. For more than 200 years, Postal
Inspectors have protected the U.S. Postal Service, its employees and its
customers from criminal attach and protected the nation's mail system from
criminal misuse. To learn more, visit http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
SOURCE U.S. Postal Inspection Service