CHARLESTON, WV (WBOY) – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning West Virginians to use caution when giving to charities in the wake of Hurricane Laura, as some individuals use disasters to fraudulently solicit charitable donations.
“The damage brought by Hurricane Laura to the Gulf Coast is heartbreaking,” Morrisey said. “West Virginians are generous people. I encourage those who wish to contribute to disaster relief to do so, but give wisely so that your generosity helps those in need.”
Morrisey’s office says because criminals will sometimes fraudulently solicit charitable donations, those who desire to give to a charity or organization should confirm it is registered with the proper state government office. People can access that information through the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office or by contacting state officials in Louisiana and Texas.
The attorney general listed the following tips for West Virginians to keep in mind when giving to disaster relief organizations:
- Never feel pressured to donate immediately.
- Be suspicious of charities that ask for donations in cash, gift cards or via wire transfer.
- Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.
- Ask how much of an individual donation directly supports hurricane relief.
- If the charity is unfamiliar, gather as much information as possible about the organization.
- Never rely on a group’s sympathetic sounding name or its similarity to a well-known, reputable entity.
- Be wary of unsolicited calls that thank you for donations that you do not recall making.
- Verify any local chapter is authorized to solicit funds on behalf of its parent organization.
- Go directly to a charity or organization’s website instead of clicking on a link to the desired group.
- Any online contribution website should start with https://. The “s” verifies a secure connection, making it less likely for personal information to be stolen.
- Be wary of any charity refusing to detail its mission, use of donations or proof of tax deductibility.
- Keep records, including a letter confirming the charitable status of the organization, for contributions in excess of $250.
West Virginians who have been solicited to donate to a charity they think may be fraudulent can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online.