Scammers follow disasters

With the devastation we have witnessed in the last month with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we all want to help. We have proved over and over again that Americans are willing to help and give whenever the need arises.

Giving and helping is what we do and the senior population is right there in the front leading the way. Seniors grew up in a period when you trusted people and organizations, when their word meant something and, most of all, when they were honest.

Sadly, those days are gone.

Be very careful of charities that spring up overnight. This is especially true after natural disasters. Scammers make very compelling arguments for your money but are short on details on how they are going to get the money to the affected areas.

The scammers are out there trying to take advantage of the generosity that people have, especially that of seniors.

Every day, we get calls from various people and organizations asking to give to the point where you might get frustrated with all of the calls. How do you know which one to give too, which charity is legit? It gets to the point where you stop answering the phone and when you do, majority of the time you just have to hang up because no is not in their vocabulary.

I received a call from someone representing the Fraternal Order of Police from Ohio. When asked what FOP, he kept repeating Ohio, not able to give any other information on which FOP. After I informed him that I was a retired police officer, he hung up.

Another story that I like to tell is that I was scammed by a young girl who was selling magazines to raise money for her softball team going to an out-of-state tournament. She was very persuasive, very innocent, and I fell for it.

I found out a few days later that she was working for a group that was out of state. I never did get my magazines.

Charities and fund raisers — groups that solicit funds on behalf of organizations — use the phone, face-to-face contact, email, the internet and mobile devices to solicit and obtain donations. Scammers will also use these same methods.

So how do you know if they are legit or not? Warning bells should go off in your head if the caller or organization:

• Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs and how the donation will be used;

• Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible;

• Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization;

• Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately without giving you time to think about it or do your research. These people are usually long on emotion, but short on details;

• Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money;

• Offers to send a “runner”or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately;

• Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

Here are ways to avoid being scammed:

• Give only when you feel confident.

Legitimate charities will accept your donation whenever you are ready. Don’t give in to pressure about suggested donations. They will appreciate donations of any amount.

• Be cautious about giving to charities that claim that 100 percent of donations will support programs.

Today’s cost of operating a charity make it virtually impossible to direct 100 percent of your donation to program activities.

• Call the charity.

Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If you are familiar with the charity, call them to see if that charity is in your area and if the person collecting is authorized to collect on their behalf. Remember, using fake ID cars are a common practice for scammers.

If the person collecting starts getting irate or you get a gut feeling that something just doesn’t feel right, call your local police department.

• Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau.

You can check on any charity by going to the BBB website or calling your local office. You can also call the Office of the Attorney General of Ohio or visit the office website for information on various charities.

• Do not give cash.

Once you give them cash, it’s gone. Be very careful on giving your credit card information to a third party. You can call the charity directly to give out credit card information. Never write a check to an individual. Checks should be made out to the charity.

People want to give, they want to help, but just be careful. The majority of charities are legit and they do a wonderful job in helping people. Take time to check the charity, especially if you are not familiar with it.

Almost all charities have a website that provides phone numbers to call. Just like with all scams, check with your family, and friends before you give if you are not sure.

Please be careful and if you have any questions concerning any scams please call me at 330-675-7096. Also I am willing to speak to any senior group or organization.