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Beware of charity scams in tragedy’s wake

I was sitting in the waiting room for jury duty (I wasn’t selected) April 15 when news of the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon started coming in over my iPhone via the social media site Twitter.

As I sat in that room at the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas for the next few hours, I was glued to my Twitter feed trying to get information about what was happening so far away.

After three hours, I posted the following tweet: “Time to watch out for scam charities that always seem to pop up in the wake of these tragedies.”

Two days later in West, Texas, a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant killed 14 people, injured more than 160, damaged 150 buildings, including three of the small-town’s four schools.

Another opportunity for those among us with less character to take advantage.

The day after the Boston bombing, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning stating that at “least one poorly conceived charity scam has already emerged.”

On April 18, Time magazine issued posted an article to its blog that stated “It’s only human nature to want to help out victims of a disaster, but tragic events also bring scam artists out of the woodwork.”

The next day, an Internal Revenue Service news release warned of charity scams.

“It’s sad but true,” the statement said. “Following major disasters and tragedies, scam artists impersonate charities to steal money or get private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.”

Scammers favor solicitations by phone, social media (such as Twitter), email or in person.

Homeland Security officials told CBS News that more than 125 websites were trying to solicit money right after the Boston bombings.

The IRS recommends people give to “qualified charities listed at IRS.gov and FEMA.gov, be wary of charities with similar names to national well-known organizations, don’t give personal financial information and report suspected fraud to authorities.

Oh yeah, don’t give or send cash, but that should go without saying.

People’s hearts are big and the money always seem to roll in with these large tragedies.

The One Fund – Boston, a charity for marathon blast victims established by Massachusetts’ governor and Boston’s mayor, raised $7 million in its first 24 hours and $21.6 million by Wednesday.

The fund is headed by an attorney who managed the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and administered the funds for the victims of the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Virginia Tech.

In late March, Connecticut’s attorney general asked 69 groups claiming to raise money to help victims’ families and assist the Newtown community after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last year for more information on how the money is being spent. The groups had collected nearly $15 million.

Another good site to use to weed out the fakes is www.charity

I think it is amazing so much money is given during these tough economic times. We just need to make sure it is given to the people who need it most.

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