In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the IRS and the North Carolina Department of Information Technology want to remind you that criminals and scammers try to take advantage of the generosity of those who want to help victims of major disasters.
Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person using a variety of tactics.
- Some impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.
- Bogus websites use names similar to legitimate charities to trick people to send money or provide personal financial information.
- They even claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
- Others operate bogus charities and solicit money or financial information by telephone or email.
Malicious emails sent to the state of North Carolina increased more than 60 percent during the days leading up to the landfall of Hurricane Florence, State Chief Risk Officer Maria Thompson said Thursday. During the week of Sept. 8-14, the state saw significant increases in the number of spam and phishing emails, and in attempts to send viruses to the state’s network.
Taking the following steps will help stop cybercriminals:
- Carefully look at email and web addresses since cybercriminals will make them look as legitimate as possible, often using variations of spellings. The URL may have a different domain, such as .gov instead of .net.
- Do not click on links in emails from anyone unless you know and have verified the sender of the email.
- Take time to look at the sender’s email address. Do not click on any links until you are certain the organization is real. Check the organization’s website for its contact information and use sites such as charitynavigator.org to verify a charity organization.
- Make sure your all anti-virus software is up to date and that you have enacted the anti-phishing software provided by your email client.
- Phishing emails and phone calls may also try to pose as official disaster aid organizations such as FEMA. A true FEMA representative will never ask for personal banking information, a Social Security number, or a registration number.
“Criminals posing as volunteers or disaster relief agencies will try to cheat you during a disaster, and especially during relief efforts,” Thompson said. “Make sure you are donating to legitimate agencies if you choose to help. Don’t let your guard down.”
There are multiple ways to guarantee you are donating to a legitimate charity.
The IRS website, IRS.gov, has a search feature, Tax Exempt Organization Search, that helps users find or verify qualified charities. Donations to these charities may be tax-deductible. You can also use charitynavigator.org to verify a charity organization.
Other tips for protecting yourself:
- Contribute by check or credit card. Never give or send cash.
- 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.
Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email 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.”