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Consumer Protection

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Fraud

Charity Fraud

The office of Bucks County Consumer Protection would like to advise consumers of charity fraud. When a disaster such as an earthquake or flood happens overseas or in the United States people tend to come together and help with time and money. Unfortunately scammers also set up immediately. They are especially effective when they set up fake websites or send bogus emails that look like they are from official established organizations. Then they usually have a link that will take the unsuspecting donor to the scammer's site. There they ask for a donation either through credit cards or by asking for direct access to your banking information. Not only is fraud an issue but if a charity is poorly run the donations may not be used for your intended purpose. Your donations should really go to established organizations that are prepared for large scale disasters. The Red Cross is an example of a charitable organization that has immediate impact. They have the infrastructure, expertise and the people with experience.

There are practical steps for donating that everyone should follow. Be skeptical of unsolicited phone calls, emails or links on social networking sites asking for donations. Do not give personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. That information could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

All charities who raise over $25,000 a year must register with the Pennsylvania Department of State, Charitable Bureau Division. They can be reached at 1-800-732-0999. Again, stay away from links from emails. Go directly to the official website or look up a verified phone number of the charity you may be considering using. Always ask what percentage of your donation will actually be used for the service of those in need.

FEDERAL SWEEPSTAKES LAW

The law strictly prohibits these false representations in sweepstakes promotions:

  • That the recipient is a "winner"

  • That the recipient must order to enter

  • That an entry must be sent in with payment

  • That the recipient must make a purchase to receive future sweepstakes mailings

  • A fake check, unless marked as non-negotiable and has no cash value

  • Any seal, name or term that implies federal government endorsement

INTERNET AUCTIONS

  • Internet fraud has skyrocketed

  • The safest way to buy something online is through the use of a credit card

  • Many credit card companies have special online credit cards which you can use that have the same protections as regular credit cards

  • Know who your are dealing with, and what the product is

  • Be very cautious when dealing with sellers in other countries. Limitations because of distance and legal systems can make resolution impossible

  • Always check the feedback pages on an auction site before buying or selling

  • Using an escrow agent is a great way to protect yourself, and the cost is marginal for the peace of mind

  • Prosecution on cases of Internet fraud is extremely difficult

  • Many auction sites have a complaint department set up to deal with problems

TO REPORT ONLINE FRAUD CALL (800) 876-7060 OR FILE ONLINE AT WWW.FRAUD.ORG

This is a clearinghouse that will send your complaint to the appropriate authorities.

Helpful Links:

Charitable giving
Fake Check Scam Brochure