Oklahoma tornado relief draws donations, brings on scams

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Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 7:00 pm | Updated: 9:54 pm, Wed May 22, 2013.

SARASOTA - The images of devastation in Oklahoma inspire an outpouring of help for victims of the tornado. But, sickening as it may sound, scammers wait to prey on that generosity.  Oklahoma's Attorney General has already had to warn people, in his state and even here on the Suncoast, to protect themselves as they try to help others.

“Donations are critical,” says Bryan Pope, General Manager of the Salvation Army in Sarasota. Cash helps the most, because it's faster, easier and cheaper for relief workers to buy supplies like water in a neighboring town than it is to put it on a truck here and drive it up there.

Even as disasters draw donations, they also attract those who take advantage of donors' good will. “Some people look at this as an opportunity to steal,” Pope says.

Almost immediately after the storm strikes, as soon as recovery efforts ramp, so do the plans of scammers. “Every time there's one of these things, they immediately start plotting how they're going to go about attacking it,” says Sarasota Police Economic Crimes Detective Jack Carter.

Social media has given them new ways to spread fake charities, but they still try to catch you directly. “They grab you on the phone,” he says, “and they pull at your heartstrings to make a contribution.” That's a giveaway. Scammers call. Real charities ask you to call them, or donate through their web sites.  

“The Salvation Army does not call,” Pope says. It will air public service announcements soliciting donations, “but we will not call you at home.”

The best way to help, Pope and Carter both say, is to donate to a name you know – like the Salvation Army or the Red Cross. The Better Business Bureau has a website – www.give.org – where people can check the charity they're considering.




(Note: The links are for reference, and do not constitute an ABC7 endorsement.)

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • WendyB posted at 12:37 am on Fri, Aug 30, 2013.

    WendyB Posts: 1

    Money is all they need! Those swindlers out there are just waiting patiently for your relief. Beware! Natural disasters create the need for money for disaster relief. Scam artists then swoop like vultures on fresh roadkill. Be wary of charities related to firefighters, police or military personnel that aren’t well known and seem very new. The same goes with disaster charities. Learn more here...

  • spoofyman posted at 11:29 am on Sat, May 25, 2013.

    spoofyman Posts: 4

    it's sick that people will take advantage of people trying to help people in need. This is what gives good charities a bad name sadly. I personally love the Salvation Army - they are amazing and I donate to them as much as I can.
    I would just say do your research on a charity if you're unsure before you donate to them.

  • CherylDoyle posted at 6:41 am on Sat, May 25, 2013.

    CherylDoyle Posts: 1

    I don't ever understand why people always find some ridiculous ways of earning money. Is greed the only reason? Scamming through poor Tornado victims simply doesn't seem right, I mean it is ridiculously wrong. Officials should step in and take matters to their own hands. insurance claim lawyer


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