The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a consumer alert about possible scams in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
It's common for scam artists to impersonate charities to steal money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers on the heels of a major disaster. Fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations.
The IRS warns people wanting to make disaster-related charitable donations to avoid scam artists by following these tips:
w Donate to recognized charities.
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w Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, that allows people to find authentic, qualified charities. They can also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website at fema.gov.
w Don't give out personal financial information -- such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords. Scam artists use this information to steal your identity and money.
w Don't give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
w Taxpayers suspecting disaster-related frauds should go to IRS.gov and search for the keywords "Report Phishing."
More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords "scams and schemes."