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Did you know that scammers are willing to capitalize on catastrophic events—from natural disasters to overseas conflicts—to empty your wallet?

In charity fraud schemes, criminals pull on people’s heartstrings in hopes of transforming their compassion into cash.

On this episode, we’ll learn how charity fraud scams work, how to avoid being conned, and how to report suspected incidents to the Bureau.

I’m Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory, and this is Inside the FBI.

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In charity fraud schemes, scammers use email, crowdfunding, social media, and cold calling to solicit donations from the public.

But instead of using those donations to help others, the creators of these fake organizations use the funds for personal gain or for other illicit purposes.

Even foreign terrorist organizations and their supporters have been known to use fraudulent fundraising to defraud victims into funding their operations.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, these groups and their supporters have shared the same payment site in multiple spaces—asking for charitable donations on one platform and soliciting funds to support terrorism on others.

Charity fraud schemes can happen anytime, but they tend to pop up more in the wake of major events. For example, recent public services announcements on ic3.gov warn people about schemes looking to capitalize upon the Israel-Hamas conflict, the 2023 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria, and the crisis in Ukraine.


You can protect yourself from these schemes by exercising a combination of healthy skepticism, financial caution, and cybersecurity.

First, only donate to established charities or groups whose work you know or trust.

If an organization has a copycat name or a name similar to a reputable group, take caution. Likewise, if a new organization claims to help victims of recent high-profile disasters, be wary.

If you spot a red flag, you can visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Advice website at consumer.ftc.gov to learn how to vet a charity before giving them your money.

You should also pay attention to how a charity asks you to donate. If a group encourages donations via cash, gift cards, virtual currency, or wire transfers, it’s likely a scam.

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Next, practice good cyber hygiene. If someone you don’t know emails or texts you, don’t click on any links or open any attachments they send you. You should independently verify any requests from persons or businesses that you may or may not be associated with.

Similarly, don’t fall for phishing schemes. If an email, robocall, or robotext asks for personal information or passwords, don’t respond.


You should report suspected charity fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3.

To file a report, visit the ic3.gov homepage, click on “File a Complaint,” and follow the instructions outlined on the website.

You can visit fbi.gov/charityfraud to learn more about this risk.


This has been another production of Inside the FBI. You can follow us on your favorite podcast player, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or YouTube. You can also subscribe to email alerts about new episodes at fbi.gov/podcasts.

I’m Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory from the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs. Thanks for listening.

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