Avoiding Scams and Scavengers

By WEEK Producer

November 26, 2013 Updated Nov 26, 2013 at 3:31 PM CDT

A lot of good, legitimate volunteers, contractors and others are responding to offer their services and help. However, some people may try to take advantage of homeowners after disasters.

Homeowners should get the contractor’s license number and names of individual volunteers and/or volunteer team leaders who offer their assistance.

If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, or if you see scavengers or suspicious activity, please contact law enforcement at 309-444-2313.

You may also contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Office at 847-417-4893.


To best ensure that your donation will be used for its intended purpose, the Attorney General’s office suggested the following tips:

- Ask how much of your donation will go to the charity and how much will be used to pay fundraising costs. Solicitors must give you this information if you ask.

- Pay close attention to the name of the charity.  Some fraudulent charities use names that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations to mislead you.

- Ask detailed questions about the charity. Donate only when your questions have been answered and you are certain your money will be used according to your wishes. Ask questions like whether the charity is registered with the Illinois Attorney General's office and what percentage of the money the charity takes in goes to fundraising, administration and charitable programming.

- Do not pay in cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Be sure to write the full official name of the charity on your check—do not abbreviate.

- Request written information. A legitimate charity will provide you with information outlining its mission, how your donation will be distributed, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.

- Do not donate if the solicitor uses high-pressure tactics, asks for cash payment or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation. These are all hallmarks of a scam.

- If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity by contacting the charity or visiting its website.

- Do not assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs, or other social media have already been vetted.

The Attorney General's office also advised that donors should be wary of requests for clothing, food or other questionable in-kind donations. Unless the charitable organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, the donations may be more of a burden than a help. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.