In the Wake of Hurricane Harvey, IRS Cautions Against Fraudulent Charity Scams

In the Wake of Hurricane Harvey, IRS Cautions Against Fraudulent Charity Scams


When a disaster affects our nation, watching the American people support, encourage and rally around one another is an amazing and heartwarming sight. While many people reveal the more wholesome side of America, many others view disasters as a time to take advantage of those affected.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey (and now Hurricane Irma as well), the IRS issued a warning urging taxpayers to safeguard themselves against potential charity scams. In an attempt to collect valuable personal information and/or money, many fraudulent individuals will impersonate charities. Scammers may contact taxpayers via email, telephone, social media or even approach people in person. However, the majority of scamming endeavors are attempted via email.

When disguising themselves as charities or identifying themselves with known charitable causes, fraudulent parties often use similar names or imitate the website of a licensed charity. Their emails may prompt taxpayers to give money or provide private financial information, which can later be used to steal your identity or seize significant financial resources. In their warning, the IRS included a set of resources and helpful tips to avoid being taken advantage of:

  • Ensure you are donating to recognized, and reputable, charities.
  • NEVER offer up personal information like bank account numbers, passwords or Social Security numbers. Honorable organizations should not ask you for this type of information in order to donate, so be cautious when any one of these particulars are solicited.
  • Do not give or send cash donations. Most reputable charities will ask for a credit card, check or a reliable online payment system such as PayPal. These methods provide taxpayers with distinct documentation of the payment provided, which is valuable for security and tax purposes.
  • Keep accounts of all philanthropic donations. Not only is this a beneficial practice in the event of fraudulent activity, but it is also advantageous during tax season when it’s time to make deductions. The IRS website supplies a free booklet that includes details on the specific records to keep and precise tax rules for making tax-deductible donations.
  • Be watchful when encountering charities with names similar to known charities, but with just a slight difference, or with a contrasting logo. Visit the IRS website for a catalog of qualified, tax-exemptible charities.  

If you believe you have been contacted by scammers, or are a victim of fraudulent activity, visit the IRS website to report phishing schemes.