JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As thousands work desperately to recover from the storm, the FBI has a warning about scam charities popping up across our region.
Dr. Johannes Ullrich spends his days scanning the internet for Sandy relief scams from his Jacksonville home. The cyber security expert is the Dean of Research for SANS Technology Institute.
Since the Superstorm hit, he’s targeted thousands of phony Web sites trying to steer relief efforts away from legitimate charities meant to help victims of Superstorm Sandy.
The scams start, according to Ullrich, even before the storms form. As soon as the National Weather Service announces names to be used for upcoming hurricanes, the internet is a buzz registering those very names for their domains and the crooks circulate the sites through different disasters.
"We had the same site being used for earthquakes in Chile, tsunamis, Hurricane Katrina and such,” said Ullrich. “These are certain groups who make a living, or try to make a living, off these disasters."
These pop-up charities are designed to prey on a donor's desire to help.
Ullrich pulled up a site that recently caught his eye. “One of the problems that I don't like is that it goes to a Paypal donation button. With Paypal, you don't really know where it's going."
SI Sandy Relief Fund is just one of thousands he's tracked since Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast. The site advocates helping families affected by the storm. But Action News has learned, it's not registered with the I.R.S., as required by law.
As many in our area look to lend a helping hand this Thanksgiving, Ullrich says it’s important to do your homework before donating.
“Stick with the trusted charities. Charities you have used in the past and that you know who they are and you know that the money will reach the victims."
According to the Better Business Bureau, 70 percent of American’s who give money, do it without checking to see if the charity is legitimate.
Visit the IRS Web site to learn more about which charities are legitimate