As the U.S. Northeast continues to struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, warnings are being issued to consumers about possible scams.
A U.S. Internal Revenue Service alert issued on Nov. 9 warned consumers that fraudsters are likely to prey on good-hearted people who want to help Sandy victims financially through relief efforts.
The federal agency warned it is common for scammers in the aftermath of a disaster to create schemes to trick people to donate money. Donors believe they are helping others, but are in reality lining the pockets of scammers. Frauds could come via telephone, social media, email or in-person.
"Scam artists can use a variety of tactics. Some scammers operating bogus charities may contact people by telephone to solicit money or financial information," the IRS said, "They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds. They may attempt to get personal financial information or Social Security numbers that can be used to steal the victims’ identities or financial resources."
CNN reported that a Maryland-based company, The SANS Institute, said over 1,000 Internet domain sites with the words "relief" or "Sandy" were registered recently. According to one expert, at least some of these have definitely not registered as a charity.
"We have no idea who these people are," Johannes Ulrich, president of SANS Security told CNN from his home in Jacksonville, Florida. "And what we notice is that they do register hundreds of these domains, in part, trying to trick people who go to these domains and then donate the money."
CNN also reported Art Taylor, president of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, indicated over 70 percent of Americans donate money without checking exactly where money goes.
"I worry that things are going to get worse," Taylor said. "People are going to continue to get duped by unscrupulous claims."
Digital Journal reported earlier this month about scams surfacing, which also include repair work and cleanup scams, as the Better Business Bureau warned.
Experts and officials recommend people only donate to recognized charities and to check out any that sound "real", as often scammers will create a name that closely resembles a well-known organization. Additionally, they may ask for credit card or bank information which may be used to commit financial or identity theft.