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FBI Warns Public of Disaster Fraud in the Wake of Nepal Earthquake

While the Nepal earthquake last week was a grievous tragedy that took more than 4,000 lives, it also served as an important reminder of the potential for disaster fraud.

Now that the rubble has settled, and disaster relief organizations are flocking to Nepal's aid, the FBI and National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) issued a statement warning the public to "apply a critical eye, and conduct due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims."

Before making a donation of any kind, consider the following recommendations:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including by clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
  • Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
  • Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by using Internet-based resources.
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
  • Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
  • Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
  • Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com.

If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, contact the NCDF by phone at (866) 720-5721, fax at (225) 334-4707, or e-mail at disaster@leo.gov.

You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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