Attorney General Lopez says donors to Lāhainā wildfire should be cautious
As donations continue to pour in to help victims in the recent Lāhainā wildfire, some individuals are reporting they are being scammed.
The Hawai’i Attorney General Anne Lopez is now reminding the public to carefully research before they either donate or create a fundraising event.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in fundraising efforts on various social media platforms,” said Attorney General Lopez. “We have also seen an increase in complaints of possible ‘scam’ charities soliciting donations on behalf of the victims of the Lāhainā fire. Residents are urged to take their time to do their research before donating.”
Before making a donation, Hawaiʻi residents are encouraged to verify if a charity is legitimate by checking its status on the following online sources:
- Hawaiʻi Attorney General: https://charity.ehawaii.gov/charity/welcome.html
- IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search: https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/
- Charity Navigator: https://www.charitynavigator.org/
- DCCA Business Search: https://hbe.ehawaii.gov/documents/search.html
Residents may also visit the Federal Trade Commission website for detailed tips on how to avoid scammers when donating through social media platforms. Examples of tips against scammers include finding out who is behind the crowdfunding request and donating only to campaigns organized by people who you actually know.
The public is also encouraged to pay attention to who is asking and who is getting the money. Check where the donation link goes and confirm with the person who posted the link that he or she knows the person behind the fundraiser. Check to make sure the fundraiser provides clear information on where the money goes, who is receiving the donation, determine if the fundraiser take fees from the donation, ensure the charity will receive the donation in proper timing, and determine what will happen if the donation cannot be sent to the charity of choice. Also ensure your information will not be shared.
Any individuals or businesses wishing to organize a fundraising event on behalf of a charity are reminded to comply with the requirement to obtain a written consent of a charity before holding fundraisers. This written consent form can be submitted to the Department of the Attorney General by using the online form that is provided here.
Charities should also do their own due diligence to ensure they are aware of and consent to fundraising events conducted on its behalf. Charities are also reminded to comply with the registration requirement with the Department of the Attorney General prior to conducting any solicitation for donations in Hawaiʻi. More details about the registration requirement can be found by visiting the Tax & Charites Division website.
Any questions or complaints about a scam charity or suspicious fundraiser can be directed to the Tax & Charities Division at (808) 586-1480 or by sending an email to [email protected].