U.S. attorney warns of scammers in wake of Oso landslide

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OSO –Embattled Snohomish County residents should be aware of scammers trying to take advantage of their misfortune in the wake of the devastating Oso landslide, the U.S. District Attorney’s office said Monday.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan warned residents hoping to donate to local charities and organizations claiming to help victims’ families of the Oso slide to be wary of scams. Though many organizations were legitimate, Durkan said, a time of tragedy unfortunately brings out some unscrupulous individuals trying to make a quick buck.

“There has been a huge outpouring of support and generosity for those affected by the slide,” Durkan said. “Unfortunately there are always those few who hide larcenous intentions behind a clock of mock charity.”

Before making a donation, Durkan reminded individuals to check to make sure money was going to a legitimate organization.

She offered these tips when searching for a charity:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
  • Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by utilizing various internet-based resources.
  • Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because the files may contain viruses.  Only open attachments from known senders.
  • To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
  • Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
  • Be aware with whom you are dealing when providing your personal and financial information.  Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions.  Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Avoid cash donations if possible.  Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity.  Do not make checks payable to individuals.  Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
  • Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than.com.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of mudslide victims, if you discover fraudulent disaster relief claims submitted by a person or organization, or if you know about or suspect fraud involving disaster relief operations, you can report it through the National Disaster Fraud Hotline, toll free, at 866-720-5271.

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