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Wolf Administration Warns Pennsylvanians of Potential for Scams During Hurricane Season

Harrisburg, PA — With Hurricane Michael making landfall last week in Florida, the Wolf Administration is reminding Pennsylvanians that the hurricane season may create opportunities for scam artists to try to steal money from unsuspecting victims. Criminals have been known to pose as representatives from charitable organizations, or establish phony charities, to solicit donations from well-intentioned people.

“After every natural disaster, generous Pennsylvanians look for ways to help,” Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres said. “Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals and organizations may try to take advantage at such times. We encourage donors to be fully informed before contributing to any charitable organization.”

You can search for information on charities soliciting in Pennsylvania by visiting the Department of State’s website. Here are some other tips to keep in mind: 

·         Do not give to a charity you know nothing about. Call the charity or do some research on your own. Search the name online — with the word “complaints” or “scams.” Check with the Better Business Bureau.

·         Do not donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.

·         For door-to-door solicitors, ask to see the person’s identification and consider avoiding them altogether. Do not feel pressured into giving and allowing someone into your house.

·         Do not give credit card numbers, bank account numbers or other personal financial information over the phone. Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity.

·         Whenever possible, write a check payable to the charity so you have a record of your donation. Or make a donation directly through a legitimate organization’s secure website, rather than a third-party website.

·         Don't click links in unsolicited emails or on social media. Unless you previously donated to an organization, assume that an unsolicited donation request by email is a scam. Plus, links in emails or social media can unleash malware.

Potential tax scam   

Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell also warned of a ploy that involves scammers contacting disaster victims claiming to be working on behalf of the IRS.

According to a warning issued by the IRS, the scammers try to gain access to personal information by falsely claiming to assist natural disaster victims with casualty loss claims, which allow taxpayers to make a deduction on their federal tax returns for damaged or lost items not covered by insurance.

“Don’t give out your Social Security number over the phone. If a caller is asking you for this information, hang up immediately,” Secretary Hassell said. “Remember that criminals often pose as the IRS or other government officials to trick you into falling for a scam.”

Secretary Hassell also encouraged those interested in making a charitable donation to check online with the IRS if they have any doubt regarding the validity of a charity. Click here to access the IRS’ Tax Exempt Organization Search, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities.

As a reminder, if you are a victim of identity theft or discover a fraudulent Pennsylvania personal income tax return was filed using your identity, please contact the Department of Revenue’s Fraud Investigation Unit at 717-772-9297 or  

MEDIA CONTACT: Wanda Murren, Department of State, 717-783-1621

Jeffrey Johnson, Revenue, 717-787-6960

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