New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Offer Tips to Spot and Avoid Charity Scams When Donating to Hawaii Fire Relief Efforts

As rescue and emergency operations continue in the wake of the deadly wildfires that swept across the Hawaiian island of Maui, New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin and the Division of Consumer Affairs are reminding New Jerseyans to beware of fraudulent charitable solicitations when seeking to donate to relief efforts.

They urge consumers to “Investigate Before You Donate” and avoid fraudulent charitable solicitations for donations to help those affected by the fires.

“Natural disasters such as the one in Hawaii bring out the best in people, as we seek to help others in their time of need. But for the con artist, this tragedy is just another means to defraud the public,” Platkin said in a statement. “Donors need to be wary of potential scams that divert relief funds into the pockets of fraudsters.”

The Division offers the following tips for New Jerseyans who seek to donate for victims of the Hawaii fires:

  • Give to charities you know and trust. Never give to a charity you know nothing about. If a charity is new, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t donate—but learn as much as possible before you decide to entrust the organization with your money.
  • Learn about the charity’s stated mission, and find out how, exactly, it plans to use your money. Ask for literature and read it. Honest charities encourage you to ask questions.
  • Contact Consumer Affairs’ Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 or visit the Search For A Charity page to learn about specific charities and confirm that they are registered with the Division, as required by law.
  • The Division’s website will also show the charity’s most recently reviewed financial information—including the amount of the charity’s annual expenses that went to actual charitable programs, as opposed to fundraising or management expenses.
  • Don’t be fooled by a convincing name or professional-looking website. Dishonest charities may use impressive names or names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Don’t succumb to pressure. Don’t let yourself be pressured into giving, and don’t feel you have to contribute on the spot. No legitimate organization will expect you to contribute immediately, even if you have given in the past.
  • Ask if the charity uses a professional fundraiser and, if so, what percentage of your contribution will actually go toward relief efforts and how much will be used to pay the fundraiser.
  • Beware of unsolicited and phony email notices that claim to be from a charity asking for your credit card information. This scam is called “phishing” and could be used by thieves to commit identity theft. If the charity is unfamiliar to you, check whether the group is registered with Consumer Affairs’ Charities Section. If the organization is registered or you know the organization, call directly to find out if the email notice is valid.

Consumers may obtain information about a charity in several ways. They can ask the charity itself (reputable charities encourage you to do so), or visit the charity’s website.

Consumers can also obtain this information from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Visit the Division’s Charities Registration page; call the Division’s Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 during regular business hours; or use the Division’s free “New Jersey Charity Search” smartphone app.

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