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Madigan says Ebola scams now making the rounds

Attorney General Lisa Madigan today alerted Illinois residents of several possible email scams tied to the Ebola outbreak.

Madigan’s office has received emails titled “People being quarantined” that purport to be an “Ebola Pandemic Update” and include a link to view a so-called “civilian crisis protocol.” The email may contain links that could infect a user’s computer. Another email offered a “surplus personal protection kit” for $29 that alleges to provide infection defense specifically for members of emergency response teams and law enforcement agencies.

Madigan urges Illinoisans to be on the lookout for these types of unsolicited or suspicious emails. Consumers who receive such emails should delete them immediately. Do not open or click on any links in the email.

“We suspect these emails are the handiwork of scammers seeking to take advantage of people’s understandable fear and anxiety surrounding this international public health risk,” Madigan said. “It’s extremely important that you delete these messages and instead consult legitimate resources for more information about prevention measures underway.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is posting regular updates regarding the federal government’s response to the outbreak, including tips on how to minimize the risk of infection, and the Illinois Department of Public Health recently announced its protocol in the event of a suspected Ebola case in Illinois.

Madigan also urged residents to exercise caution when donating to charitable aid efforts tied to the Ebola outbreak. Con artists may seek to exploit the crisis for their own personal profit.

Under Illinois law, fundraisers and charitable organizations are required to register each year with the Attorney General’s office. To assist potential donors in making wise giving decisions, the Attorney General’s office provides important financial information about charitable organizations such as income, expenditures, and programs. You can also check out the following resources to learn more about specific charities: IRS Select Check, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and Foundation Center.

To best ensure that your donation will be used for its intended purpose, Madigan suggested the following tips:

Ask how much of your donation will go to the charity and how much will be used to pay fundraising costs. Solicitors must give you this information if you ask.

Pay close attention to the name of the charity. Some fraudulent charities use names that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations to mislead you.

Ask detailed questions about the charity. Donate only when your questions have been answered and you are certain your money will be used according to your wishes. Ask questions like whether the charity is registered with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and what percentage of the money the charity takes in goes to fundraising, administration and charitable programming.

Do not pay in cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Be sure to write the full official name of the charity on your check—do not abbreviate.

Request written information. A legitimate charity will provide you with information outlining its mission, how your donation will be distributed, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.

Do not donate if the solicitor uses high-pressure tactics, asks for cash payment or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation. These are all hallmarks of a scam.

If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity, and not an imposter, by contacting the charity or visiting its website.

Be cautious of “look-alike” websites. These fraudulent websites will often ask for personal financial information or may download harmful malware into your computer.

Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook or social media have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself.

Suspicious solicitations can be reported to the office’s Charitable Trust Bureau by calling (312) 814-2595. To report any potential scam to the Ebola outbreak, contact the Consumer Fraud Bureau at 1 (800) 386-5638 (Chicago), 1 (800) 243-0618 (Springfield), and 1 (800) 243-0607.

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