How to Avoid Internet, Charity Scams

12:15 PM, Apr 19, 2013   |    comments
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Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

by Chris Horne,


- The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center says Americans lose about $500 million each year to internet scams.

- Not all organizations with charitable sounding names are actually charities, says Ga. Secretary of State Brian Kemp. 

- Tip: Never give your credit card, debit card or bank account information to a telephone solicitor.

The Boston Marathon bombings and the explosions in West, Texas have sparked Internet scams where fake accounts are set up to encourage people to donate money to help victims. 

In the wake of these tragedies, people across the country have looked for ways to support the victims. But now some are trying to prey on that sympathy.

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center receives over 300,000 complaints from Americans each year about internet scams. The agency said they result in about $500 million in losses annually.

"It's not unusual to see fraudsters take advantage of disasters and use it as a way to scam people out of money," FBI Supervisory Special Agent Marshall Stone told our sister station WBIR-TV in Knoxville.

Brian Kemp, Georgia's Secretary of State, weighed in with a news release offering tips to residents.

"Many wish to give back to those affected by tragedies through charitable organizations and I ask that donors familiarize themselves with an organization before giving to ensure legitimacy, so their gifts may be used properly," Kemp said.

To file a complaint about fraudulent charities, call the Secretary of State's office at 478-207-2440 or visit the Professional Licensing Boards Division website.

He gave the following tips for charitable giving:

- Research charities before you contribute to ensure a large percentage of your contribution directly supports the charity's stated mission.

- Use online resources for research charities, like Better Business Bureau ( and GuideStar (

- If you are solicited by phone, ask that the individual put their request in writing and provide complete information about the charitable program.

- Never give your credit card, debit card or bank account information to a telephone solicitor. Be cautious of couriers willing to rush out to pick up your contribution.

- Make sure the organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS website has a searchable database of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

- Not all organizations with charitable sounding names are actually charities. Many organizations adopt names confusingly similar to well-known charities. Be sure you know exactly who is asking for your contribution.

- Watch out for organizations that use questionable techniques such as sending unordered merchandise or invoices after you have turned them down for a donation. You are under no obligation to pay for or return items received under these circumstances.

• If you are solicited by an organization using the words "police" or "firefighter," call your local police or fire department to verify that the group is actually supporting the department.

• Be skeptical of organizations which list only post office boxes, "PMB" addresses or mail drop suite numbers.

Contributing: John Henry, WBIR in Knoxville.

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