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How To Donate Responsibly and Avoid Hurricane Sandy Scams

-Learn how to give to those in need and protect against superstorm Sandy fraud

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It's bad enough that Hurricane Sandy has destroyed homes, entire neighborhoods and even lives. As Long Island, NY neighborhoods and those in other states recover from the devastating effects of the superstorm, there's one more danger to watch out for: there are heartless scam artists, just waiting to take money from those who intend to help the victims of the storm.

You may receive phone calls, see advertisements or Twitter or Facebook posts, or even in-person solicitations that ask you to give money to help storm victims, but not all of them are legitimate. So please be on the alert before you donate to charities to help your fellow Long Islanders and others who were adversely affected by superstorm Sandy. Here are some ways to make sure that your dollars go to help the people who need it most.

The FBI's Suggestions
The FBI has a number of suggestions of what to consider before donating to a charity. These include that you:

  • NOT respond to unsolicited emails, and do not click on any links in those messages because they may contain computer viruses
  • Be alert to emails that say they have photos of disaster areas in attached files. These files may contain computer viruses.
  • Always check out the legitimacy of nonprofits rather than following a purported link to a website
  • Never give out personal or financial information to those who are soliciting contributions. This could lead to the theft of your identity.
  • Avoid giving cash donations. Instead, write a check directly to the charity.
  • Note that most charities that are legitimate have websites that end in ".org" rather than ".com".

Are You Really Donating To The Red Cross?
Some online scam artists may pretend to be affiliated with a legitimate charity like the American Red Cross. To make sure that you are actually donating to the Red Cross, and not clicking on some website that will steal your money and possibly your identity, you can go to a special safe site set up by Apple and the Red Cross. If you go to www.itunes.com/superstormsandy, you can sign up via your iTunes account and then just click the "Donate" button directly under the amount that you wish to give (from $5. to $200.) iTunes will then transfer 100 percent of your donation to the American Red Cross. You will then receive an email receipt from the iTunes store, and the donation will show up 9n your credit card statement as an iTunes store transaction. (Note: this type of donation may not qualify as a tax deduction.)

Check Out Charities at the BBB Site
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) maintains a page that allows you to type in the name (and location) of a charity to see if it is legitimate. For more info, please go to www.bbb.org/us/Charity-Reviews.

Donate To The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army's website allows you to donate online or you may call them at 1-800-SAL-ARMY to contribute to relief efforts.

Remember To Help Fido and Fluffy
The Humane Society needs donations to help in their animal rescue efforts. You can view a slideshow of their disaster relief for pets. To donate, you can click on their site at www.humanesociety.org. You can follow their updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HumaneSociety

To learn more about scams and how to report suspicious activity, you may visit http://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing.

You may also report suspected fraudulent activity related to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts by calling the toll-free National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at (866) 720-5721. The hotline is open 24/7 and staffed by live operators. You may also email them at disaster@leo.gov

In addition, you may also report any suspicious websites or email solicitations to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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