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State warns: Scammers may exploit Newtown tragedy

Published 12:07 pm, Saturday, December 22, 2012
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State Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein and Attorney General George Jepsen are cautioning residents that scammers already may be seeking to exploit the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy for their own purposes.

"This is a time of mourning for the people of Newtown and for our entire state," said Jepsen. "Unfortunately, it's also a time when bad actors may seek to exploit those coping with this tragedy. We are very thankful for all of the offers to help and urge those looking for ways to help to take some simple precautions to ensure that their donations will find their way to those in need."

Rubenstein added, "In the wake of the shocking and horrific shooting in Newtown, tremendously compassionate individuals and groups from across the nation have stepped up to assist. Donors should apply a critical eye and take precautions before providing any money in response to emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings or telephone calls in the name of helping those devastated by the tragic Newtown shootings. We are extremely grateful for the generosity shown to the people of Connecticut, and especially the Newtown community. We want donors to be certain their support is going to the appropriate place."

The state offers the following suggestions:

Donate to well-known, established charities; it is the best way to ensure that your donation is used appropriately. Find a charity with a proven track record that is making help available to the families and community of Newtown.

When giving to any organization, specify the purpose of your donation (e.g "for the victims of the Newtown shooting"), and do so in writing whenever possible.

Be extra cautious when responding to e-mail and telephone solicitations on behalf of supposed victims. These methods of solicitation are more likely to be part of a scam.

Delete unsolicited emails and don't open attachments, even if they claim to contain video or photographs. The attachments may be viruses designed to steal personal financial information from your computer.

Watch carefully for copycat organizations. Criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identities and donations of generous, unsuspecting individuals. When giving online, be sure to find the charity's legitimate website. You can access accurate links to the sites of each bona fide charity at Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org.

Social media sites can also perpetuate scams. Do not blindly give via these vehicles. As with any charity, investigate the groups behind such pleas to ensure that they come from a legitimate organization.

Both the need for donations and the opportunity for giving will be present for some time. Therefore, do not feel pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics. If you feel pressured at all, you are most likely being scammed.

Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions.

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.

The DCP maintains information on charities that are registered with the state and the minimum percentage guaranteed to go to that charity. The website, https://www.elicense.ct.gov, provides charity registration information and displays any active solicitation campaign notices for a registered charity or their paid solicitor.

Additional information is also available at Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org; the Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/charityfraud; and the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at www.bbb.org/us/charity.

Suspicious solicitations should be reported to local police and to the DCP at 1-800-842-2649.