Our Opinion: Avoid scams by despicable predators

Perhaps the most despicable form of fraud are scams devised to profit from other people’s misfortune.

Natural disasters — like Superstorm Sandy that ravaged the East Coast — cause death and injury, destroy property and leave people vulnerable during the cleanup and rebuilding process.

Compassion has inspired offers of help, including assistance from Missourians outside the reach of the storm’s wrath.

Although we are not at risk of home repair scams, Missourians must be wary of bogus charities seeking donations.

The Associated Press has reported nearly “1,100 Internet addresses related to Sandy have been registered since last Friday, according to Internet domain research site DomainTools.”

Not all those sites are bogus, but authorities advise donors to:

• Be wary of any phone calls seeking aid contributions, particularly when high-pressure tactics are used.

• Listen carefully for indications of fraud, including organizations with names similar to a familiar charity, a caller’s inability to respond to questions or offers of prizes. More details can be found at the Federal Trade Commission website: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/charityfraud.

• Never send cash.

• Do not click on links or open attachments contained within aid-related spam.

• Evaluate charities carefully. They can be investigated at the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Bureau (www.give.org) or Charity Navigator (www.CharityNavigator.org), an independent nonprofit organization that evaluates charity groups based on effectiveness and financial stability.

Predators who compound the suffering of disaster victims don’t deserve to profit from your compassion or generosity. Instead, they deserve contempt and, ultimately, some time behind bars to reconsider their reprehensible actions.

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