The IRS is warning about possible fake charity scams emerging due to Hurricane Harvey.

Criminals may look to take advantage of the outpouring of support for victims of the hurricane by impersonating charities to get money or private information from taxpayers, the agency said.

Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations. Criminals often send emails that steer recipients to bogus Web sites 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.

Hurricane Harvey flooded Rockport, Texas
Hurricane Harvey flooded Rockport, Texas Alex Scott/Bloomberg

The IRS suggests never giving 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 ID and money. Also, the service warns donors 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.

The IRS Web site has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.

The free IRS Publication 526, “Charitable Contributions,” describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations and provides complete details on what records to keep.

Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.”

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Jeff Stimpson

Jeff Stimpson

Jeff Stimpson is a veteran freelance journalist who previously served as editor of The Practical Accountant.