IRS Warns of Tax Scams Following Boston Marathon Tragedy
by Terri Eyden on
By Jason Bramwell
Since the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, millions of dollars have been donated by people and businesses from across the country to help the families of the three people killed in the attack and those who suffered severe injuries.
One Fund Boston, a charitable fund set up by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino following the bombings, has received more than $10 million, according to a published report. The fund is designed to streamline donations into one account, which will then be divided up among victims and their families.
"I am humbled by the outpouring of support by the business community and individuals who are united in their desire to help," Patrick says in a written statement. The governor adds that Boston-based financial services firm John Hancock, the lead sponsor of the marathon, made a $1 million commitment to the fund.
Five Tips for Taxpayers
The IRS offers the following five tips to help taxpayers who wish to donate to victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy.
1. Donate to qualified charities. Use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool to find qualified charities. Only donations to qualified charitable organizations are tax-deductible. You can also find legitimate charities on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.
2. Be wary of charities with similar names. Some phony charities use names that are similar to nationally known organizations. They may use names or websites that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations.
3. Do not give out personal financial information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit and bank account numbers, and passwords to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists use this information to steal your identity and money.
4. Do not give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
5. Report suspected fraud. Taxpayers suspecting tax or charity-related fraud should visit the IRS website and perform a search using the keywords "Report Phishing."
While One Fund Boston and relief organizations like the Salvation Army have been recommended as trustworthy places where people can send aid to Boston Marathon victims, the IRS cautions taxpayers to be aware of scam artists who can impersonate charities to steal money or to get private information.
"Some scam artists operate bogus charities that contact people by telephone to solicit money or financial information," the IRS states. "Others use e-mails to steer people to bogus websites to solicit funds, allegedly for the benefit of tragedy victims. The fraudulent websites often mimic the sites of legitimate charities or use names similar to legitimate charities. They may claim affiliation with legitimate charities to persuade members of the public to send money or provide financial information. Scammers then use that information to steal the identities or money of their victims."
How You Can Help Boston Bombing Victims
The following are some examples of how you can help those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.
- One Fund Boston, a charitable fund set up by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino, will streamline donations into one account, which will then be divided up to victims and their families. One Fund Boston Inc. will apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS. Although the fund cannot guarantee that the IRS will make a determination that the organization qualifies as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity, if approval is received within the expected time frame, the determination will be retroactive to the date of the fund's formation.
- The Salvation Army, which set up mobile feeding units to help victims at the scene of the bombings, is accepting donations to assist those impacted by the attack and for future emergency situations.
- The American Red Cross says it is not seeking monetary donations for Boston Marathon victims at this time. However, it is urging people who would like to contribute money to do so via One Fund Boston. To support other Red Cross disaster relief efforts, people can donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief or text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
- Boston Children's Hospital continues to aid in the recovery following the explosions and care for those who were injured. Donations can be made to the hospital's Marathon Program, which supports the hospital's areas of greatest need, or to its Emergency and Trauma fund, which helps children and their families receive the emergency treatment they need when faced with tragedy. People also may make a monetary contribution to support care efforts at Massachusetts General Hospital.
- The Richard Family Fund was established to help the family of eight-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the bombings. His mother and sister were also seriously injured in the attack. As of April 22, approximately $158,178 has been donated.
- The Lu Lingzi Scholarship Fund was created by Boston University in memory of Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student at the university who was killed in the attack. Members of the university's board of trustees have collectively made contributions of more than $560,000 to the fund.
- The family of Krystle Campbell, who was killed in the attack, has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to:
Krystle M. Campbell Memorial Fund
25 Park Street
Medford, MA 02155
- The Bucks for Bauman fundraiser was created to help Jeff Bauman and his family. Bauman lost both of his legs as a result of the attack, and the money raised will be put toward his medical bills. People can follow Bauman's road to recovery on a Facebook page created on his behalf.
- A fund for Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, newlyweds who each lost a leg after sustaining serious leg injuries in the attack, has been established by their family and friends. As of the afternoon on April 22, more than $615,700 has been donated.
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