Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is alerting Texas consumers to be wary of door-to-door scam artists and others posing as representatives of charities in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Reports are circulating that bogus "charities" are seeking donations for victims of the tragedy in southern Louisiana and Mississippi, and Attorney General Abbott said he is prepared to file legal actions promptly.
"Major disasters spawn a mood of charitable giving among people in all walks of life and stir deep sympathies for people and their suffering," said Attorney General Abbott. "Con artists know this and will take every opportunity to exploit families in need and others for personal gain. My office will move aggressively to stop it."
Telephone, email and Internet scams asking for money to help hurricane victims may also be on the rise. Internet solicitors may even impersonate reputable charity organizations. Especially suspiciou s are several newly created Web-based charities that appeared after the tragedy, such as:
Abbott urges consumers who want to contribute to the relief effort to do so through well-known and easily recognized charities, such as the American Red Cross. Doorstep or telephone solicitation should be treated cautiously and should be fully researched.
When an individual knocks on the door or calls asking for a charitable donation to help in the relief effort:
• Ask for credentials, including exact name, and phone number of the organization, particularly if the charity is unfamiliar;
• Call the charity and confirm that the solicitor is connected to it;
• Be alert to questionable charities using names that closely resemble those of well-known charities;
• Find out the planned uses for the money you give: will proceeds directly benefit those in need?
• Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion and short on descriptions about providing help to those in need;
• A legitimate charity welcomes background checks on their operations. Don't succumb to high-pressure tactics and demands for an immediate decision;
• Never give a credit card number to a telephone solicitor;
• Never give cash and never agree to give money to a courier. Write a check in the name of the charity, not the individual doing the asking, and get a receipt.
Consumers who wish to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office regarding suspicious charities may call (800) 252-8011, or file a complaint online at www.oag.state.tx.us.