November 2, 2020 -- Charity fraud tends to spike during the holidays, and this year could be even worse as scammers target people for help due to the pandemic, according to Yahoo! Life.

The FBI and law enforcement agencies across the country have received reports of scammers asking for donations to aid people, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.

“Many Americans want to help during the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing to charities, but the FBI is warning that scammers also want to help — they want to help themselves to your money,” according to an FBI statement released in mid-October.

“They are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information or both. Don’t let them,” the FBI wrote.

Scammers may spoof the names, emails, or phone numbers of real organizations, the FBI warns, so be careful about calls that ask for donations, particularly if they mention a “donation pledge” that you don’t remember making. Instead, call the charity itself and verify.

Importantly, scammers may pressure or rush a donation, which is a warning sign. Emails with links and attachments may contain computer viruses as well.

In a recent scam, an email with the subject line: “URGENT: Coronavirus, can we count on your support today?” claimed to be from the Department of Health, but it wasn’t, Yahoo! Life reported. Other recent emails have contained documents and audio files with malware.

“When you get contacted by a charity, it could be legitimate. But if you want to be safe, go directly to the website of the charity,” Adam Levin, a cybersecurity specialist, told the news outlet.

The FBI also recommends searching for the charity on the Better Business Bureau, Give.org, Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. The FBI provides additional tips about charity fraud on its website and has an online form to report potential fraud.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Yahoo! Life, “COVID-19 charity fraud is on the rise, warns the FBI—here’s how to safely donate without getting scammed this holiday season.”
FBI, “FBI Warns of Potential Charity Fraud Associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
FBI, “Charity and Disaster Fraud.”
FBI, “Electronic Tip Form.”

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