CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — Scams can happen at any time, but the most scams target people after large-scale disasters like when hurricanes happen. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning everyone to watch out for impostors calling to solicit money donations to aid those affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida.

Because of the damage in Florida which Florida’s Governor calls “historic”, scammers will be in full force preying on people’s charity and taking advantage of organizations set up to provide relief to storm victims.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this catastrophic weather. Many are expected to respond with generosity and kindness but unfortunately, there will be those who would take advantage of people’s willingness to give. I encourage those who wish to give to the relief effort to do so, but give wisely so that your generosity helps those in need.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

According to the FBI, disaster and charity fraud schemes seek donations that do little or no work—instead, the money goes to the fake charity’s creator. While these scams can happen at any time, they happen most after high-profile disasters.

Anyone who wants to give money to a charity or organization should confirm it is registered with the proper state government agency. People can access that information through the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.

Consumers also can research charities online via www.charitynavigator.org or www.guidestar.org.

Here are additional tips to keep in mind when giving to disaster relief organizations: 

  • Only give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust.
  • Never feel pressured to donate immediately.
  • Be suspicious of charities that ask for donations in cash, gift cards or via wire transfer.
  • Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.
  • Ask how much of an individual donation directly supports the relief effort.
  • Never rely on a group’s sympathetic sounding name or its similarity to a well-known, reputable entity.
  • Be wary of unsolicited calls that thank you for donations that you do not recall making.
  • Verify any local chapter is authorized to solicit funds on behalf of its parent organization.
  • Go directly to a charity or organization’s website instead of clicking on a link to the desired group.
  • Any online contribution website should start with https://. The “s” verifies a secure connection, making it less likely for personal information to be stolen.
  • Be wary of any charity refusing to detail its mission, use of donations or proof of tax deductibility.
  • Keep records, including a letter confirming the charitable status of the organization, for contributions in excess of $250.

Any West Virginian solicited to donate to a charity they think may be fraudulent can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808, or file a complaint online at www.wvago.gov.