Consumers are urged to be wary of fraudsters trying to prey on public sympathies for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion.
Just a day after the Boston bombing, for instance, the Boston Better Business Bureau reported that one phony charity scam had already surfaced "and more are likely."
The IRS, in a new warning on its website, said "Scam artists impersonate charities to steal money or get private information from well-intentioned taxpayers." The phony solicitations can arrive by email, phone, social media or in person.
Some fraudsters pose as charities, calling to solicit money or financial information. Others send emails, steering people to bogus websites that solicit funds, allegedly to benefit victims. The fake websites often mimic those of legitimate charities or use similar names.
"Social media make it very easy to reach a lot of people quickly, when emotions are running high and people feel the need to take action, any action, to help," said a statement on the BBB's website.
If donations are solicited on behalf of a family, look for indications of how funds will be used. If a family sets up its own assistance fund, be sure it goes through a third party, such as a bank, CPA or lawyer, said the BBB.
Other tips: Do not give or send cash; donate by credit card or check so there's a record of your donation. Do not give your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers to anyone who solicits a contribution. Report phony emails to the IRS or the Anti-Phishing Working Group.