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Fraud is a Side Effect of Covid-19

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While the world hunkers down and mostly embraces social distancing to flatten the curve of Covid-19, fraudsters have ramped up their efforts to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding this unprecedented pandemic.

Any type of large-scale natural disaster, epidemic, or crisis is like Christmas Day for fraudsters who exploit individuals who want to help those in need by donating money or scarce supplies. Too often, the urgency of need and the desire to do good prevent donors from conducting any due diligence on the recipients of their donations, and scam artists end up benefiting rather than the true victims.

As we are all aware, the closure of numerous businesses in response to governmental orders to enforce social distancing measures has left countless workers without jobs to go to, and thus no wages. Funds to help support restaurant workers, artists, healthcare professionals, and victims are springing up everywhere, and they all appear to be for good causes. Individuals and organizations are also soliciting donations of scarce medical supplies, from masks and gloves, to ventilators. However, it is likely that not all of these efforts are legitimate.

Before you donate to a cause, take a few minutes to make sure your hard-earned money or supplies will end up with your intended beneficiaries, and not a scam artist. First, try to donate to organizations you already are familiar with and know are legitimate. Donate directly through that charity’s own website rather than through a social media post or crowdfunding page that might actually be a false front or charge unnecessary processing fees.

If you are donating to an organization you are not familiar with, your first stop should be the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration Portal. Most charitable and fundraising organizations conducting business in New Jersey are required to register and file annual financial reports with the Charitable Registration Section. You can search online at or call the Section at (973) 504-6215 to determine whether the organization you are considering donating to is in compliance with its registration obligations and operating legally in the state.

If the prospective recipient of your donation claims to aid a local community cause, ask around before you donate to find out if that is truly the case, or ask for specific information that you can verify separately before you donate.

Do not donate to a charity that pressures you for a donation or avoids answering your questions about how your donation will be used.

During this extraordinary time of need, please do not let social distancing prevent you from helping others. However, don’t be so quick to act that you end up becoming a victim of fraud, rather than the benefactor you were hoping to be. Take those few extra minutes to make sure your charitable efforts have the impact you intended.