FBI, law enforcement community warns of California wildfire disaster fraud schemes

The FBI, Better Business Bureau and California prosecutors  today separately issued warnings concerning potential disaster related fraud schemes in connection with the ongoing  Southern California wildfires. 

Many of these schemes are Internet-based scams representing themselves to be disaster relief charities, the groups said.

It is a sad truth that following other tragic events like 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Virginia Tech shootings, and the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge, dirtbags with criminal intent to solicit for contributions for a charitable organization and/or a good cause.  Given the recent wildfires in Southern California, consumers should be cautious before contributing to an unknown or unfamiliar charity, the FBI said.

 While these are obvious to many, the FBI issued the following advice:

 ·          Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail. 

·          Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations. 

·          Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail. 

·          Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses.  Only open attachments from known senders. 

·          To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to recognized organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf. 

·          Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization’s website rather than following an alleged link to the site. 

·          Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which also may assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization. 

·          Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions; providing such information may compromise your identity and open you to identify theft.

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