New Jersey officials are warning people that scammers are looking to cash in on the destruction caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida by reaching out to New Jersey residents to solicit donations for bogus and fraudulent groups and organizations that supposedly are set up to help victims of the storm.

Mike Geraghty, New Jersey's chief information security officer, said there are many honest Garden State residents trying to lend a helping hand, but at the same time, there are also bad actors coming out of the woodwork.

“There’s a saying – never let a good crisis go to waste, and as we’ve seen through the COVID crisis over the past 18 months, criminal groups live for such opportunities and Ida presents that type of opportunity for them,” he said.

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Geraghty, who serves as the director of the Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell within the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said solicitations are coming in a variety of forms, including text messages, Facebook and GoFundMe pages and emails.

He said if you recognize the name of an organization, instead of clicking on a link that’s in one of these messages, visit their website directly.

“We do recommend people type in and go directly to the charity’s website. They can Google the URL if they want to look that up,” he said.

Geraghty pointed out one way to tell if a group is on the level is to review their online front page, adding that all charities have to file Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service, with most posting that form publicly on their website.

Another good tool to use is Charity Navigator.

“It’s a website that provides a rating for the charity, based on how efficiently the charity used the donated funds as well as how those funds are used to provide services,” Geraghty said.

Think you've been scammed? You can report it at cyber.nj.gov or with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at njconsumeraffairs.gov.

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