Holiday Charity Scam Advisory 2012

Every holiday season, criminal charity scams seem to reach a feverish peak.  The Ocean City community’s reputation for its generosity is well known and therefore disreputable, deceptive opportunistic scammers often target local citizens.  Since the creation of the Internet and e-commerce technology, most citizens have enjoyed a new wonderfully convenient way to communicate, shop, book travel, and be charitable, however; there is a dark side as well. 

The Ocean City Police Department is reminding citizens to be cautious when giving to charities and when shopping, particularly on-line.

According to Scambusters.org, (http://www.scambusters.org/charityscams.html) there are 4 popular holiday charity scams to avoid:

  • The Donate a Car Deal - Action: The best way to donate a vehicle is to identify a charity that actually uses vehicles in its programs, for example, delivering meals to the homebound, taking elderly or blind people to the doctor or on errands, or training future auto mechanics.
  • The Email Charity Scam - Action: If you want to help the charity mentioned in the email, contact them directly with a phone call or use a Google search to find their real website.
  • Police and Firefighter Charities - Action: Before you give, make sure you know whether the group is a local, state or national organization. Get specifics on the programs your donation will fund and make sure you understand how they will help your local officers.
  • Prospect Fundraising - Action: Before you give, make sure you know whether the group is a local, state or national organization. Get specifics on the programs your donation will fund and make sure you understand how they will help your local officers.

Ocean City police remind citizens not to provide anyone, particularly persons you have no affiliation with, personal or bank information either over the telephone or internet.   Scam artist often target persons who they have obtained some information about and then try to confirm the information or even obtain what they need to falsify a person’s identity and or access to personal banking and credit card information.

Never use credit cards that are directly linked to checking, savings or money market accounts.  Citizens should be particularly weary of a charity asking donors to you use a wire transfer service such as “Western Union” to send donations, especially overseas.  The OCPD reminds citizens when they use the Internet or telephone to make and monetary transactions either donations or purchases, only make it to a reputable well-established charity or businesses or internet site.  If you use a credit card to make donation or purchase check your statement and ensure that your charges are legitimate.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that consumers review the credit history annually to ensure they have no unauthorized credit accounts. For additional credit and purchase safety information go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/credit.shtm.

If you believe there has been suspicious activity involving a charitable donation or a purchase you have made, immediately contact your bank and local police.