As people have a country away recover from tremendous losses due to flooding. the N.C. Attorney General’s Office has issued a warning of scams that seek to take advantage of charitable individuals trying to help others.
“After recent flooding devastated parts of Louisiana, many people are eager to pitch in and help those affected. Unfortunately, past catastrophes like tsunamis in Japan, Hurricane Katrina, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines have shown us that scammers are out to take advantage by tricking you into giving money, or even by selling you a flood-damaged car,” a statement from Attorney General Roy Cooper read.
He offered tips through the North Carolina Department of Justice website.
“The Attorney General’s Office encourages North Carolinians to give generously to relief efforts for Louisiana flood victims, but be wary of charity scams,” the statement read.
Described as the worst disaster since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, the storm centered in Baton Rouge, La., started Aug. 12 and dumped as much as 2 feet of rain over two days in some areas and was blamed for 13 deaths. Entire neighborhoods were inundated with water, making homes uninhabitable, filled with mildewed carpets and warped cabinets. People have spent days gutting houses, stripping out furniture, walls and flooring.
But some houses could take days or weeks to dry out — and repairs could take even longer.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards estimated the flooding damaged more than 100,000 homes. Thousands of south Louisiana residents remain stuck in shelters, living in hotels or staying in the spare bedrooms of family and friends after the flooding and around 120,000 households have registered for federal aid.
It is a tragedy that is in need of resources, but Cooper said those planning to donate should be mindful to:
• Not respond to out-of-the-blue emails, text messages or social media posts that ask for contributions. Instead, contact the charity directly through their website or valid phone number.
• Avoid pushy telemarketers who refuse to answer questions or pressure you to give them a credit card number. Some telemarketers keep as much as 90 percent of the money they raise for charity for themselves. Your money will go further if you give to the organization directly.
• Be cautious when giving through crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter. Although many of these fundraising appeals are legitimate, crowdfunding sites don’t screen users for authenticity. Know who and what you’re really donating to before you give.
• Don’t give cash, which can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by credit card. If you write a check, make it out to the charity, not to a fundraiser.
• Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you, and don’t share personal financial information by email or text message.
• Check out charities before you give. For detailed financial information about a charity, contact the NC Secretary of State’s office at (888) 830-4989 or secretary.state.nc.us/csl, or visit guidestar.org.
Those who spot a scam should report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.