State warns of charity scams related to Newtown tragedy

While many people are compelled to donate to the Sandy Hook Elementary cause, Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) Commissioner William M. Rubenstein and Attorney General George Jepsen are cautioning residents that scammers may already be seeking to exploit the tragedy for their own purposes.

“This is a time of mourning for the people of Newtown and for our entire state,” Mr. Jepsen said in a press release. “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.”

“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,” Mr. Rubenstein. “Donors should apply a critical eye and take precautions before providing any money in response to e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings or telephone calls in the name of helping those devastated by the tragic Newtown shootings added. “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 for donating on behalf of victims: Donate to well-known, established charities; when giving to any organization, specify the purpose of your donation (such as saying it’s “for the victims of the Newtown shooting”) and do so in writing whenever possible. People should be extra cautious when responding to e-mail and telephone solicitations on behalf of supposed victims; delete unsolicited e-mails and don’t open attachments, even if they claim to contain video or photographs. People should also watch carefully for copycat organizations as criminals are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identities and donations of unsuspecting individuals and, when giving online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate website.

Other suggestions include being aware of a charity’s behavior, as reputable charities do not use coercive tactics. People should not be providing personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions, avoid making cash donations when possible and writing checks payable to charity names, not individuals.

The DCP maintains information on charities that are registered with the state and the minimum percentage guaranteed to go to that charity. The department’s website, 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, Charitynavigator.org; the Federal Trade Commission, Ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/charityfraud and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at Bbb.org/us/charity.

Residents are urged to report suspicious solicitations to local police and to the DCP at 1-800-842-2649.

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