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Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Cautions Public About Charitable Scams Related to Boston Marathon Tragedy


Attorney General Van Hollen recommends steps to ensure that donations reach the victims.


MADISON — Tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombings bring out the best impulses of generous people wanting to help the victims. Unfortunately, these good intentions can be abused by fraudsters seeking to capitalize on tragic events, as they are doing in the wake of the tragedy in Boston.


Almost immediately after the bombings on Monday, more than a hundred new website domain names were registered, signaling the possibility of numerous fraudulent charitable schemes. Not only can fraudulent websites divert money intended for victims, but they also can be used to spread malware to donors’ computers. Apart from phony websites, fraudulent solicitations also can be made through telephone calls, text messages, or through social media such as Facebook or Twitter.


Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen stated, “I applaud the generosity of Wisconsin residents and I urge them to continue donating and supporting the victims of these horrific crimes. However, to ensure that donations actually benefit the victims, as opposed to enriching fraudsters, I also encourage donors to ensure they are giving to a legitimate charity.”


Here are some tips for avoiding fraudulent charity schemes:


  • Ask for the name and location of the company that is soliciting you, and ask what percent of donations they keep for themselves. If they won’t tell you, that is a good reason not to donate.

  • Stick to established, known legitimate charities and beware of brand new entities with no track record. Do not be misled by copycat names that are similar to those of legitimate, established charities, and be suspicious of websites that do not list an address and telephone number for the charity.

  • If you do not recognize the charity, research before you give. If you cannot confirm the charity is legitimate, don’t donate. There are resources available for investigating a charity, particularly on the Internet. One such site is You can also find out whether a charity is registered, as required by law, on the website of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, at

  • If you are solicited by telephone, ask for a statement in writing and then pay by check—not by cash or by giving your credit card number over the phone. Be wary of providing your credit card number online unless you know the website belongs to a legitimate charity.

  • Request written information about the charity before you make a decision. Legitimate charities generally will provide such information. Phony charities usually will not.


Anyone with information about a suspicious charity is urged to contact the consumer protection unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice at 608-266-1852 or 1-800-998-0700.