EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – FBI El Paso is warning the public about charity fraud, where scammers set up fake charities to take advantage of others’ kindness and “line their pockets,” according to a press release sent by FBI El Paso Field Office.

The FBI says that while these scams can occur at any time, they are especially prevalent after damaging events like hurricanes, flash floods and forest fires.

Legitimate charities aid communities affected by these events, but the scammer competes with these legitimate charities to divert your donations away from those who need it most, and back to the fake charity’s creator.

Charity fraud scams can come in many forms including emails, social media posts, crowdfunding platforms, cold calls, among others.

The FBI says to always use caution and do your research when you’re looking to donate to charitable causes.

The following tips can help you avoid these schemes:

  • Never let anyone rush you into donating.
  • Give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust. Don’t assume the charity you have seen on social media or online is legitimate, even it if was sent to you by a friend.
  • Be aware of organizations with copycat names or names similar to reputable organizations.
  • Do your research. Use the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) resources to examine the track record of a charity.
  • Give using a check or credit card. If a charity or organization asks you to donate through cash, gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer, it’s probably a scam.
  • Check the website’s address—most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com.
  • Check the hyperlinks in emails by hovering the mouse cursor over it to see if it’s going to the legitimate charity organization prior to clicking on it.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of a charity scheme or other cyber fraud activity, contact FBI El Paso at (915) 832-5000.

Victims are also highly encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov and with the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

For more information on charity and disaster scams, visit here.