Northeast Times

Tips on avoiding scam artists following Hurricane Sandy

The In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice warns res­id­ents to be care­ful of those who will try to get them to donate to phony char­it­ies or give up per­son­al iden­ti­fic­a­tion.

Hur­ricane Sandy did its dam­age, and now it’s the con artists’ turn.

“Fol­low­ing ma­jor dis­asters, it’s com­mon for scam artists to im­per­son­ate char­it­ies to get money or private in­form­a­tion from well-in­ten­tioned tax­pay­ers,” the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice warned on Fri­day.

Such fraud­u­lent schemes may in­volve con­tact by tele­phone, so­cial me­dia, e-mail or in-per­son so­li­cit­a­tions. To avoid get­ting conned, hur­ricane vic­tims and people who want to make dis­aster-re­lated char­it­able dona­tions should take the fol­low­ing pre­cau­tions, the IRS said in a news re­lease:

— To help dis­aster vic­tims, 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 Web sites that sound or look like those of re­spec­ted, le­git­im­ate or­gan­iz­a­tions. The IRS web­site at IRS.gov has a search fea­ture, Ex­empt Or­gan­iz­a­tions Se­lect Check, which al­lows people to find le­git­im­ate, qual­i­fied char­it­ies to which dona­tions may be tax-de­duct­ible. Le­git­im­ate char­it­ies may also be found on the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA) Web site at fema.gov.

— 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 from you. Scam artists may use this in­form­a­tion to steal your iden­tity and money.

— Don’t give or send cash. For se­cur­ity and tax re­cord pur­poses, con­trib­ute by check or cred­it card or an­oth­er way that provides doc­u­ment­a­tion of the gift.

— Call the IRS toll-free dis­aster as­sist­ance tele­phone num­ber, 1-866-562-5227, if you are a hur­ricane vic­tim with spe­cif­ic ques­tions about tax re­lief or dis­aster-re­lated tax is­sues.

Scam artists can use a vari­ety of tac­tics. Some scam­mers op­er­at­ing bogus char­it­ies may con­tact people by tele­phone to so­li­cit money or fin­an­cial in­form­a­tion. They may even dir­ectly con­tact dis­aster vic­tims and claim to be work­ing for or on be­half of the IRS to help the vic­tims file cas­u­alty loss claims and get tax re­funds. They may at­tempt to get per­son­al fin­an­cial in­form­a­tion or So­cial Se­cur­ity num­bers that can be used to steal the vic­tims’ iden­tit­ies or fin­an­cial re­sources.

Bogus In­ter­net sites may so­li­cit funds for dis­aster vic­tims. Such fraud­u­lent 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 mem­bers of the pub­lic to send money or provide per­son­al fin­an­cial in­form­a­tion that can be used to steal iden­tit­ies or fin­an­cial re­sources.

Ad­di­tion­ally, scam­mers of­ten send e-mails that steer the re­cip­i­ent to bogus web­sites that sound as if they are af­fil­i­ated with le­git­im­ate char­it­able causes.

Tax­pay­ers sus­pect­ing dis­aster-re­lated frauds should vis­it IRS.gov and search for the keywords  “Re­port Phish­ing.”

More in­form­a­tion about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov us­ing the keywords “scams and schemes.”

You can reach at noreply@bsmphilly.com.

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