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News | Aug. 31, 2017

CID Lookout: Army CID Warns of Disaster Fraud Scams

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is cautioning the Army community to be on the lookout
for charitable schemes and scams associated with “Disaster Fraud” donations.

With these scams, criminals will use man-made or natural catastrophes, such as the recent damage
and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, to get individuals to donate to charities claiming to support
affected victims. Some of these organizations are fraudulent, or misleading at best because they do
not have the infrastructure to support the affected disaster area.

Disasters can also lead to an increase in fraudulent fundraisers, monetary and charitable donations
scams and scammers will use various methods to seek “charitable donations.” According to CID
officials, “scammers exploit those wishing to assist people in need by soliciting fictitious charitable
donations, making phone calls, sending fraudulent emails or creating phony websites to solicit
contributions or personal information resulting in identity theft.”

“Do not respond to unsolicited email (spam), links or attachments from these fake groups because in
addition to stealing your identity, these links may also contain computer viruses and/or hijack your
computer files for ransom,” CID agents warn.

The scammers will also focus on getting their victims to become emotionally invested to help those in
need. Special Agents from CID recommend that people who want to give do research before
donating. Ask detailed questions about the charity or organization, which includes basic information
such as their name, address, telephone number, and if the charity is registered. Also request proof that
a contribution is tax deductible or if the organization is tax exempt. Be cautious of out of state
organizations – especially if their address is a post office box.

Officials also urge would-be-givers to ensure monies are donated to trustworthy organizations and
make contributions directly to known and verified organizations rather than relying on a third party to
do so.

Experts also advise that copycat websites are very active during natural disasters. Copycat websites
will have links that will appear authentic to similar known web addresses. It’s the same for some
social media platforms. An increased use of social media platforms using copycat websites and
accounts of trusted organizations will be used to display devastating and emotional images combined
with a link in an effort to get you to donate to those in need.

If you decide to donate, go directly to the organization’s website and do not donate using a link that
has been sent via email or social media, CID advises. Be sure to check the organization’s verification.
Most sites use a check mark behind the name to let you know that you are on or viewing a verified

Additionally, some crowdfunding and fundraising websites and accounts may not be used for the
intended purpose of helping disaster victims, so beware of solicitations from these sites posing as
legitimate and fake organizations. It is important to verify all organizations before donating.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a charity scam, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade

National Center for Disaster Fraud: (866) 720-5721
Department of Homeland Security / FEMA Fraud Hotline: (800) 323-8603
Federal Trade Commission:
Texas:, 1-888-327-8818
Helpful Links:
• FTC Consumer information release:
• Directory of national charities:

Editor’s note: Some information contained in this advisory is courtesy of the FBI, the National
Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) and the National White Collar Crime Center.