Scammers are flooding taxpayers with bogus emails, phone calls and in-person solicitations posing as disaster relief organizations.
Hurricane Harvey’s rain has scarcely stopped falling in south Texas, but scammers are already flooding taxpayers with bogus emails, phone calls and in-person solicitations posing as disaster relief organizations.
Houston, Texas, is reeling under floods caused by over 50 inches of rain from Harvey. A third of the city is said to be under floodwaters. But the Internal Revenue Service warns taxpayers who may want to donate to a bona fide relief organization to be wary of criminals who impersonate legitimate organizations to get donations or financial information from well-meaning donors.
The IRS reminds, “Criminals often send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.”
The IRS website has the tools a savvy giver needs to check out any purported charitable relief organization. But here are some quick tips that may be helpful to anyone wishing to make a donation to Texas flood relief:
- Be sure to donate to recognized charities.
- Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
- Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
- Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.