Beware of Hurricane Relief Scams

The catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina has inspired many Texans to give generously in an effort to help desperate victims. Unfortunately, in times like these, scam artists and thieves will try to take advantage of your kindness. Be very cautious in responding to solicitations for aid.

Be particularly cautious about websites and unsolicited emails seeking donations. Many of these "charities" are bogus. I commend you for your desire to give, but I urge you to make sure your donation reaches the people you intend to help. Many legitimate and well known charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army are focusing their efforts on hurricane relief at this time. Note that reputable organizations do not directly solicit individual consumers for donations by telephone, door-to-door or by email. Do not use links that you find in unsolicited emails to access the websites of these organizations.

If you have any questions about the legitimacy or authenticity of a charitable effort, contact www.give.org for information. Give.org is a website maintained by the Council of Better Business Bureaus to promote wise charitable giving. Also, remember to confirm the tax-exempt status of any organization to which you choose to make a donation.

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Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

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ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.

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