Matt here, AllClear ID Investigator. The 2011 tornado season ravaged much of the American Midwest, sending relief efforts and charities to the hub of it all: Joplin, Missouri. During this time, there were two alleged charities set up to help victims of the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado. However, these charities never contributed a dime to the relief effort, according to the state’s Attorney General, Chris Koster. Koster said that Alivio Foundation Inc. began soliciting donations shortly after the May 22 tornado through a PayPal link on the purported charity’s website and through an online donation conduit called Crowdrise.  Donations were supposed to go to a couple of Catholic churches in Joplin, but the churches reported that they were never even contacted by Alivio.  Koster’s office has since been able to locate $9,700 so far through Crowdrise alone.

Scammers are always seizing opportunities to make a profit, and unfortunately, during times of crisis, they prey on good citizens with open hearts.  Many people like to give and help others in need but do not stop to think that this type of scam could even exist.  Yet, every time there is some sort of disaster–from the towers coming down on 9/11, to the Haitian earthquakes–scammers try to take advantage. With technology ever-evolving, it has become even easier for crooks to carry out these schemes.  After Hurricane Katrina, not only was there money being donated on the Internet, but donors could easily punch a couple of numbers on their mobile phones to make a contribution. The donor would then have to follow up the text with a phone call and give out personal information, making them ripe for identity theft.

Fake charities use the same techniques to steal your money that legitimate charities use to raise funds, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Before you donate, make sure you know where your money is going. We posted a helpful list last week to remind you of signs to look for before you donate.

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance offers information about national charities; you can also call 703-276-0100 or go to their website here.