Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, September 17, 2001


Giving is Commendable, but Watch for Scams by Email, Phone, in Person

AUSTIN - In the wake of last week's disasters on the East Coast, Texas Attorney General John Cornyn is asking citizens to be alert to individuals operating bogus charities and who prey on the generosity of those sympathetic to victims and their families.

Although the Attorney General's Office has received no complaints thus far, Texans are urged to be vigilant and avoid releasing private information such as credit card numbers via email or over the phone.

"Sympathies have run very deep in the aftermath of last week's horrendous disasters in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, and many fine, legitimate charities stand ready to help and they encourage your support," said Attorney General Cornyn. "However, Americans can be certain unscrupulous individuals will come forward to exploit this outpouring of goodwill across the nation. Dishonest people like this have one goal - enriching themselves through deception in the midst of enormous human suffering."

Cornyn urges those who have received suspect emails or other bothersome solicitations to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division hotline at 800/337-3928 or 800/252-8011. Anyone who has received such an email should forward it to the Attorney General's Office for review at

When an individual representing a charity knocks on the door, sends emails or calls on the phone pleading for a charitable donation to help victims, Texans should take the time to ask a few questions before offering a donation. Here are a few tips to avoid falling victim to email scams:

  • Well-known national organizations do not send unsolicited emails requesting donations unless the person has had contact with the organization in the past. Be wary of these kinds of requests. If a solicitation seems suspect, do not donate. Forward the email to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Office at the address listed above.
  • When clicking on a link to allow for a donation, look at the organization's URL in the browser window. If the domain name of the URL is hidden, is unfamiliar or is not the same as the link's text, the request is likely a scam.
  • Verify the charity's identity by phone before donating online. Many phony charities imitate the name and style of a well-known charity in order to con people.

Here are tips for checking out in-person or telephone solicitations:

  • Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion and short on descriptions about providing help to those in need;
  • Be alert to questionable charities using names that closely resemble those of well-known charities;
  • If the charity the person represents is not recognizable, it could be a fraud. Verify the organization he or she represents by asking for credentials, including exact name and phone number of the organization, particularly if the charity is unfamiliar;
  • Find out the planned uses for the money to be donated. Will proceeds directly benefit those in need? What portion of the contribution will go toward the charitable purpose to be supported?
  • Call the charity and confirm that the solicitor is connected to it;
  • A legitimate charity welcomes background checks on their operations. Don't succumb to high-pressure tactics and demands for an immediate decision;
  • Never give credit card or social security numbers to a telephone solicitor;
  • Never give cash. Write a check in the name of the charity, not the individual doing the asking, and get a receipt.

The Attorney General's Office also cautions concerned citizens wishing to do their part by raising funds for disaster relief. Certain legal requirements for fund raising efforts should be followed, including the registration of public safety groups like firefighters' organizations.

Remember, supporting worthy causes is commendable, but do give wisely.

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