As victims of the recent San Diego fires are beginning to rebuild their lives, scam artists are using the disaster to obtain money from good Samaritans.
Individuals posing as representatives from charitable organizations are pocketing donations that are intended for fire victims.
The District Attorney’s Office of San Diego is warning potential contributors to be cautious of solicitors who are representing fake charities with similar names to long-established charities.
“Make sure you know what the charity really is and that the person claiming to represent them really works for them,” said Rob Bryn of the San Luis Obispo sheriff’s office.
Common tactics for scam artists are to ask for donations over the phone, by going door-to-door and even through e-mail.
A recent scam involves individuals sending e-mails posing as the IRS asking for donations for fire victims.
The e-mail contains a link that prompts individuals to provide their credit card information and specify a donation amount.
Police encourage individuals who receive this or similar e-mails to delete them immediately and frequently check the status of their bank and credit card statements.
Students get frustrated when learning about scams popping up as a result of the fires, but try to remain positive.
“Sometimes it makes me feel hopeless, but there are good charities out there, and you have to watch out for the few bad apples who try to ruin it for everyone,” art and design sophomore Clayton Beltran said.
According to police, there are usually danger signs present to help recognize a scam artist posing as a charitable organization.
Magnetic signs on trucks instead of painted company logos, out-of-state license plates and phone numbers and people who look like they are traveling are signs of a possible scam.
Additionally, people who refuse to give their names and callback phone numbers or refuse to send written information regarding donations may be scam artists.
Police warn potential donors not to give money to people who are supposedly sent to their house to pick it up or send money to organizations if their only address is a P.O. Box.
“I feel bad that there are people out there who would take advantage of others’ misfortune,” business junior Brad Huge said.
Bryn said the best way to donate would be to pick an organization such as the Red Cross and take your donation to one of their established offices directly.
“If it sounds too good to be true chances are it is,” Bryn said.
Individuals who are interested in donating to fire victims can find legitimate charities on the California Attorney General’s Web site at http://caag.state.ca.us/charities.
Donors who suspect that they have already been victims of fraud are encouraged to contact the Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-2752 for support.