Ill. AG Urges Caution when Helping in Katrina Recovery

September 9, 2005

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged Illinoisans to be generous, but careful, in their charitable giving, especially over the Internet, to agencies and organizations involved in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This is definitely a time for all of us to help the victims of this disaster. But it’s an unfortunate fact that natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina can bring out con artists looking to make money off of tragedy,” Madigan said.

Should consumers decide to donate to relief efforts, Madigan said it is always best to donate to reputable relief organizations with which they are familiar. Madigan said consumers can check with her office’s Charitable Trust Bureau to make sure an organization to which they are considering donating is properly registered. Madigan stressed that some highly respected charities such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many religious-affiliated organizations do not appear on the Attorney General’s Internet list of registered charities because they are exempt from the office’s filing requirements.

Many organizations now feature Web sites to make donating more convenient; however, Madigan said consumers should be on guard for Internet-based scams.

For example, consumers may receive e-mails that they should avoid. “Phishing” e-mails look similar or try to appear to be from well-known organizations like the Red Cross, but contain links embedded within them that take a donor to a fake site with a scam artist on the other end. After the tsunami disaster last year, Madigan said many donors discovered a number of computer viruses were spread by these phony charity messages.

“We have heard today from the Federal Trade Commission that ‘phishing’ is already well underway in response to Hurricane Katrina,” Madigan said. “Simply put, do not respond to any unsolicited e-mail asking for donations. It is best to go directly to a reputable organization’s Web site, or call the organization directly to make your pledge.”

More information about charitable giving is available by contacting Madigan’s Charitable Trust Bureau at 312-814-2595 or by going online to Madigan’s Web site and click on “Building Better Charities.”

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