Officials Warn About Katrina Relief Scams

By: Althea Paul
By: Althea Paul

September 8, 2005

As the amount of Americans donating to Katrina relief efforts grows, so do the scams. Officials are warning now people to be aware when donating.

When disaster strikes, con artists also come out. That's why consumers need to be aware of where their money is going when they give to relief organizations.

"Whenever you want to donate you need to do your research. Find out who the organization is and do some research to fins out how in fact they are gong to spend the monies," said Michael Wright, with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs.

One of the ways scam artists are targeting people is through the internet.

"We're aware of some emails going around that contain bogus websites for the American Red Ross," said Wright.

One group that should especially watch out is the elderly, who are more prone to being taken advantage of.

They are a generation that tends to be more trusting and courteous to people on the phone, plus they're targeted relentlessly by telemarketers and people of fraudulent interest," said JABA CEO, Gordon Walker.

One of the resources available to keep from getting scammed is the FEMA website. It lists the names of organizations, reputable ones, so you can make sure your money is going where it needs to go.

Here are some more tips to make sure you don't get duped:
Don't give money to anyone going door to door.
Never give account information over the phone. If you do get an email with an organization's website attached - go to the site yourself to make sure it's official. If you write a check - designate on the check that it's specifically for Katrina relief effort, and don't hesitate to ask if you're unsure about anything.

Because in times like these, when the most many of us can do is give money, you want to make sure it ends up helping those who need it most.

Also, most national organizations do have local chapters, so you can always go directly to them if you have any concerns.

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