Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are urging consumers to be aware of scam artists exploiting Hurricane Harvey, which struck the southeastern Texas coast over the weekend, causing extensive flooding and widespread damage.

The two statewide officials said in a press release that rip-off artists follow media coverage of natural disasters and then attempt to victimize well-intended charitable donors.

“When there is a natural disaster, scam artists try to take advantage of people’s compassion,” Wyman said. “Scammers might try to lure consumers into giving money for Hurricane Harvey relief. We encourage people to check our website when they come across charities related to relief efforts.”

“Charitable giving at times like these should be not only encouraged, but commended,” Ferguson said. “However, be careful – donations to scammers help no one. Take the time to investigate the charity before donating to ensure your money goes to help those who truly need it. In the unfortunate event you do get scammed, contact my office.”

The Secretary of State’s Charities Program and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division urge consumers to be cautious when donating to a cause related to a natural disaster. Here are tips for wise and prudent gift-giving:

• Be suspicious of solicitors requesting immediate donations. Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics. Be sure to take time to research the charity. Check out the organization’s registration status at www.sos.wa.gov/charities, or call 1-800-332-4483.

• Pay with care. Never give out credit card numbers over the phone. Avoid cash donations. Write a check directly to the charity, not the fundraiser.

• Be wary of “new” charities with unverifiable background or contact information.

• Don’t be fooled by a name. Watch out for charities that use sympathetic-sounding names or names similar to well-known legitimate charities. Watch out for requests from fake “victims” or memorial social media accounts.

For consumer complaints, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-551-4636.