It’s actually an old warning, but one that is more important than ever to heed. The Elizabeth City Police Department has warned residents to beware of fake crowdfunding campaigns.

The North Carolina Attorney General is warning consumers to beware of fake crowdfunding campaigns.

Crowdfunding is when someone sets up a way for many people to contribute to something online. Sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe are used by small businesses to help get off the ground and by families to help gather contributions during a time of need. While many of these campaigns are legitimate, crowdfunding sites don’t screen people who set up campaigns.

Criminals may be using these sites to spread fake stories of tragedy or, worse, use real stories of tragedy to raise funds for which the victims aren’t aware. North Carolina law requires a charity get permission before they may raise funds in the name of someone.

To avoid becoming a victim of this kind of crime, make sure to only donate to people you really know, or friends of your friends. If you think you’ve spotted a crowdfunding scam, call the Attorney General’s office at 1.877.5.NO.SCAM or file a complaint at www.ncdoj.gov.

North Carolina has specific charitable solicitation laws, in particular one that states it is unlawful for any person to “Make misrepresentations or misleading statements to the effect that any other person sponsors or endorses the solicitation, approves of its purpose, or is connected therewith, when that person has not given written consent to the use of that person’s name.”

When then-attorney general now-governor Roy Cooper first issued the warning in 2014 (ahead of the game, North Carolina!) he included tips from a BBB guide on avoiding charity fraud:

  • If you’re giving to a charity, visit its website to make sure it is legitimate.
  • Only give to individuals that you know.
  • Look for updates from a project’s organizers to ensure they’re being honest about the uses of raised money.
  • Make sure you understand whether your gift is tax deductible before you give.
  • Be extra suspicious of crowdfunding efforts after a publicized disaster or tragedy. Make sure the person doing the fundraising has permission of the victims.
  • Read the fine print. There could be credit card fees and administrative costs associated with donating.
  • Be careful when giving on a crowdfunding site that hosts all types of projects. Specialized sites for medical funding, school projects, etc. may have better oversight.

Cooper also warned late last year of scammers taking advantage of the destruction following Hurricane Matthew.