One has this subject line: “Help Sandy Victims and get $1,000 for Best Buy!" The message says something like: "I just got a $1,000 gift card from this site...thought you could use a break before the holidays."
It seems crazy, right? The hope is you'll be curious enough to click the link which will take you to a bogus website that's designed to snag your credit card, debit card or bank account numbers.
Other cyber-crooks will send out email that looks like it's solicitation from a well-known and trusted charity.
"Practically any charity that someone has heard of there's probably a scammer out there who's tried to tread on their good name to enrich themselves fraudulently," said John Breyault with Fraud.org.
Breyault says resist the urge to click on links in text or email messages related to Sandy. You have no idea where you will land. You could download some nasty malware onto your computer or smart phone.
If you want to make an online donation -- go to the charity's website on your own.
Bennett Weiner, head of the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance, says take your time, don't be pressured and do your homework before you respond.
"You want to know what they do, what relief activities your contribution is going to fund,” he said. “You can’t assume based on the name alone what activities your generosity is going to support."
Be smart. Never give your credit card information to an unknown caller.
If you want to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, Weiner suggests choosing an organization with some experience in disaster relief, such as the American Red Cross.
"A start-up organization, or even an established charity that decides to get involved in relief work for the first time, may have great intentions, but may not necessarily carry it out very effectively."
Beware of Charity Scams in Wake of Superstorm Sandy
- Better Business Bureau: Tips on Hurricane Relief Donations
- Charity Navigator: Tips for Giving in a Time of Crisis
- Charity Navigator: Hurricane Sandy: Charity’s Responding
- Federal Trade Commission: Avoid Charity Fraud
- Federal Trade Commission: Charity Checklist
- Federal Trade Commission: Charitable Donations: Give or Take?
- BBB Warns About “Storm Chasers” Following Hurricane