As Hurricane Harvey devastates the Texas coast and the U.S. megacity of Houston, however its ripple effects go beyond as investigators will be on high alert for another type of threat: fraud.
Disaster fraud is nothing new. Law enforcement, prosecutors and other legal authorities in eight different countries are still dealing with cases from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Caribbean and eventually wreaked havoc upon the U.S. eastern seaboard. In New Jersey, new indictments reported just last month indicate how long these investigations can take, and how lengthy the process can be.
And that’s just for those who get caught.
According NJ.com in New Jersey, five more individuals face charges for filing fraudulent applications for relief funding, bringing the tally there to 100. As the article reports:
The latest group filed claims for homes they said were primary residences when they were not, the state Attorney General’s Office said.
Most state and federal relief programs are only available to those whose primary residences were damaged by the storm.
But there are other risks as well. Relief organizations have been charged with misappropriating funding meant as direct aid for disaster victims. Materials and supplies earmarked for disaster areas are sometimes horded, sold or otherwise used contrary to their purpose. And sham “charities” can pop up overnight, soliciting cash donations under the pretence of relief, while that money actually lines someone’s pockets.
Now, as another disaster unfolds, CRI Group offers some guidelines for individuals, corporations and non-profit organisations to follow as they seek to provide aid.
Research the charity
Disasters unfold quickly, but some quick checking online can help establish whether a charity or non-profit aid group is legit. Make sure it is tax exempt and rated by an external evaluation site, like GiveWell or Charity Navigator.
Look out for “new” charities
If a charity or non-profit aid group has no history, very little trail on the Internet, no registration with the government nor any testimonials online, it might be fake or fraudulent. It’s better to give your donation to an established, charitable organisation.
Be suspicious of solicitations
Social media posts, mass or spam emails, all requesting quick cash donations could be red flags of fraud. Look for inaccurate or incomplete information about the disaster, the location, and the charity itself. Double check the credibility of the charity and don’t donate through an email link – instead, visit the organisation’s website directly. After doing so, if you’re comfortable that it is a legitimate group, consider making your donation.
When disaster strikes, people need help. The generosity of others can mean the difference between life and death for those who are suffering. But we must always be cognisant of the fact that fraudsters are opportunists. Any situation that creates urgency and chaos is a scenario they will seek to exploit.
As with all other business matters, conducting due diligence investigation will help cut down on disaster fraud – and provide you with the peace of mind that your contribution is going where it can do the most good.
Who is CRI Group?
Based in London, CRI Group works with companies across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific as a one-stop international Risk Management, Employee Background Screening, Business Intelligence, Due Diligence, Compliance Solutions and other professional Investigative Research solutions provider. We have the largest proprietary network of background-screening analysts and investigators across the Middle East and Asia. Our global presence ensures that no matter how international your operations are we have the network needed to provide you with all you need, wherever you happen to be. CRI Group also holds BS 102000:2013 and BS 7858:2012 Certifications, is an HRO certified provider and partner with Oracle.
In 2016, CRI Group launched Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption (ABAC®) Center of Excellence – an independent certification body established for ISO 37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management Systems, ISO 37301 Compliance Management Systems and ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management, providing training and certification. ABAC® operates through its global network of certified ethics and compliance professionals, qualified auditors and other certified professionals. As a result, CRI Group’s global team of certified fraud examiners work as a discreet white-labelled supplier to some of the world’s largest organisations. Contact ABAC® for more on ISO Certification and training.