Beware Oil Scams

Watch out for charitable groups that claim to collect donations for those hit hard by the Gulf oil spill. Not all of them are legit.

Before you donate online, by mail or phone, be sure to check out the organization with the state Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau’s charity section.

A few tips to stay safe:

  • Before you donate online, verify the group’s address. Some scammers will use similar URLs to seem legitimate. The Federal Trade Commission can help.
  • Before you enter your credit or debit card online, make sure the URL has HTTPS, instead of the standard HTTP. The “S” standards for secure site – which means your information should be protected when it is entered.
  • Don’t give in to pressure to donate to charities by phone if you don’t know them. Get as much information from the caller as possible, then check the group out before you donate.
  • Never send cash or wire transfers. Only make checks payable to the charity – not a third party.
  • When in doubt, don’t do it!

Bureau of Consumer Protection has more details at www.datcp.state.wi.us. You can also find a thorough list of scams associated with charities at http://www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/.