As Wisconsin watches the clean-up efforts after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast hard this week, they are also seeing plenty of calls to help the victims with donations. State Division of Trade and Consumer Protection Administrator Sandy Chalmers says many of those are legitimate, but there are also plenty of people trying to take advantage of the situation.
Chalmers says past disasters have shown there are many criminals who see those situations as an extremely good opportunity to make some money. Consumers can take some simple steps to help avoid becoming a victim of a disaster scam.
Chalmers says requests to donate will often come through email, phone calls, and social media. Many of them will be forwarded along by friends, but it may be difficult to tell where they came from originally. She says it’s very easy to fake a site that looks like it belongs to organizations such as the Red Cross, so it’s best to search for charities on your own instead of following a link provided by someone else.
Chalmers also warns against clicking links in unsolicited emails asking for help. She says they can often lead to sites that will download malicious software on your computer or smart phone, which can be used to track your movements online and aid in identity theft.
For those who want to donate, Chalmers says the best course of action is to go looking for charities you are already familiar with, rather than following a link provided by someone else.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:09)