Rhode Island may be spared from the storm, but still vulnerable to hurricane-related scams
While it appears that Hurricane Matthew will not have a significant impact on Rhode Island and Southern New England, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is reminding Rhode Islanders to be aware of potential relief effort scams. The Caribbean nation of Haiti, still recovering from the devastating earthquake six years ago, took a direct hit and within in the days ahead, the residents will be trying to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Matthew. It is expected that food, water and medical supplies will be in short demand.
"In times of disaster, we often lead with our hearts, not with our heads. If you want to donate to Hurricane Matthew relief efforts, it's important to do your homework, know exactly to whom you are donating, and how the money will be used," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "There are a number of well-established, legitimate organizations that have already established relief efforts and accepting donations, and sadly, there are individuals and criminal organizations that have already established fraudulent relief efforts as well."
Attorney General Kilmartin urges those who want to donate to relief efforts to avoid donating through crowdfunding websites unless they are supported through a legitimate charity. "While crowdfunding is very popular and easy to raise money for good causes, it is very difficult to know if the charity is legitimate or if the money will be used as advertised," cautioned Kilmartin.
The Attorney General also strongly advises not clicking on links in emails or texts claiming to be from legitimate relief organizations, but rather go directly to the website to make a donation. "Scammers will use logos lifted from well-known and well-respected charities in order to dupe consumers into giving money to what they think is a legitimate charity," said Kilmartin.
Several well-established relief organizations are already mobilizing to assist Haiti and other nations impacted by Hurricane Matthew. A few charities to consider donating to are (click on the name to be directed to the relief effort website established by each charity):
Attorney General Kilmartin urges anyone wanting to donate to different relief efforts to check the organization's rating through Charity Navigator, an independent charity watchdog organization that evaluates charitable organizations. Charity Navigator has established a page dedicated to Hurricane Matthew relief efforts, which can be viewed here:
In addition to relief effort scams, Kilmartin warns consumers of another scam closer to home that may target Rhode Islanders. Leading up to and during past storms, the Attorney General's Office has received increased reports of the "National Grid scam" targeting consumers. Scammers will call homeowners threatening immediate termination of service unless they pay the alleged balance, typically requesting payment with a pre-paid debit card or iTunes cards.
"When storms bear down, people are naturally concerned they will lose power. Scammers prey on that fear and ramp up their efforts," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "National Grid will not terminate service for non-payment during a storm, and the company never demands immediate payment using pre-paid cards."
Attorney General Kilmartin urges anyone who receives one of these calls to report it to National Grid's Customer Contact Center at 1-800-322-3223.