IRS warns of scams related to natural disasters

WASHINGTON ― In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers that criminals and scammers try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers who want to help victims of major disasters.

Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person using a variety of tactics.

  • Some impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.
  • Bogus websites use names similar to legitimate charities to trick people to send money or provide personal financial information.
  • They even claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
  • Others operate bogus charities and solicit money or financial information by telephone or email.

Help for disaster victims

Comprehensive information on disaster-related tax issues, including provisions for tax relief, can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov. In the case of a federally declared disaster, affected taxpayers may also call the IRS Special Services Help Line, 866-562-5227, with disaster-related tax questions. Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

Donate to real charities

To help taxpayers donate to legitimate charities, the IRS website, IRS.gov, has a search feature, Tax Exempt Organization Search, that helps users find or verify qualified charities. Donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.

  • Contribute by check or credit card. Never give or send cash.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution.

Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit 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.”

Beware of Fake Charity Scams Relating to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

The Internal Revenue Service today issued a warning about possible fake charity scams emerging due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and encouraged taxpayers to seek out recognized charitable groups for their donations.

While there has been an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, people should be aware of criminals who look to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations.

Criminals often send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.

IRS.gov has the tools people need to quickly and easily check the status of charitable organizations.

The IRS cautions people wishing to make disaster-related charitable donations to avoid scam artists by following these tips:

  • Be sure to donate to recognized charities.
  • 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, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
  • Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
  • Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.

Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit 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.” Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.