Following the earthquake in Haiti, the FBI and the National Center for Disaster Fraud launched a phone hotline for people to report suspected fraud associated with relief efforts. Now, the two agencies have joined forces again to identify similar fraud activity emerging from the Chilean earthquake disaster.
The National Center for Disaster Fraud was first established by the Department of Justice to investigate, prosecute and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Its mission has now expanded to include suspected fraud from any natural or man-made disaster. More than 20 federal agencies participate in the NCDF, allowing the center to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information related to Haitian or Chilean relief fraud.
The FBI has established guidelines the public should consider before making donations to anyone soliciting on behalf of Haitian or Chilean victims, including avoiding cash donations (use a debit or credit cards, or write a check directly to the organization) and paying extra attention to the charity’s URL (most legitimate charities’ Web sites end in .org rather than .com).
The FBI also urges people to not give any personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise a person’s identity and make him or her vulnerable to identity theft.
Victims of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of Haitian or Chilean earthquake victims should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721. Information can also be faxed to 225-334-4707 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, suspicious email solicitations or fraudulent Web sites can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.