Disasters breed scammers: Con artists pretend to be charities

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - More than 6,000 building are threatened by the gigantic wildfire burning near Los Angeles right now and when disaster strikes, scammers are not too far behind.

This fire has been burning for almost two weeks. More than 150 acres have been devoured by flames. What you don't see is what the fire has already eaten; more than 60 homes and more than 30 other structures.

Thousands have been ordered to leave their homes. Shelters have been opened in Los Angeles County to help those who are threatened right now, as well people like Mark Moore, who lost everything. He couldn't wait to get home. Now he can't bear to look.

"I have owned this property for 25 years, we built it in 1985 -- raised my kids here, it's kind of hard to say anything else," said Mark.

Our hearts go out to people like Mark and that's what scammers are counting on. After virtually every disaster, scam artists come out of the woodwork to defraud good people who want to help victims. Fraudulent and misleading charitable solicitations come by phone, mail, in front of retail stores, or even email and it doesn't matter that you don't live close to the problem.

The California Attorney General suggests this:

  • Closely review disaster-relief appeals before you give.
  • Stick with charities that you're familiar with, rather than those that spring up overnight.
  • Don't give through email solicitations... You don't really know where a link might take you.
  • Also do not give cash. Make checks out to the charitable organization, not the solicitor.
  • Finally, don't be pressured into giving. Even during emergencies, reputable organizations will take your money tomorrow or next week.

We've put a link to the Better Business Bureau charity search page on the right.

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