SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The FBI’s Springfield Field Office sent out a notice on Monday to warn people of scams disguised as hurricane relief donation drives.

Although the Midwest was not affected by Hurricane Ian, FBI officials working in Springfield said such disasters and tragedies often pull members of the public from across the country together to help those in need. Scammers often use these disasters to steal money, personal information or both.

Officials said disaster and charity fraud comes in many forms, including emails, social media posts, crowdfunding platforms and cold calls. They offered the following tips to help people avoid falling victim to these scams:

  • Research charity reviews online.
  • Give to established charities or groups that are known and trusted.
  • Never make donations by gift card or wire transfer. Use credit cards, which are safer.
  • Review financial accounts after donating to make sure additional funds were not deducted or charged.
  • Do not believe a caller ID, as scammers often spoof real organizations’ phone numbers. It is best to research the phone number of the organization that is supposedly calling and call them directly to verify they are calling.
  • Callers that are pressuring or rushing for a donation could be a scammer
  • Do not click on links from unknown sources, which could be attempts to download viruses onto a computer or cell phone. Manually type out links instead of clicking on them.
  • Be wary of charity names which sound familiar to well-known charities and of email addresses that are not consistent with the charity soliciting donations
  • Check the charity website’s URL, as most legitimate charities’ website URLs use .org instead of .com
  • Government workers are required to carry official identification and show it if requested. Closely scrutinize any ID shown and call the agency directly to confirm a worker’s identity if unsure.
  • Do not give out personal information without confirming the legitimacy of the person who is initiating contact

Anyone who believes they are a victim of disaster or charity fraud can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721. Suspicious emails and fraudulent websites can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.