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Scam artists target Boston Marathon bombing victims

Scammers set up fake charities

Scam artists target Boston Marathon bombing victims

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Support for victims of this bombing can be uplifting for people involved. but it's also being taken advantage of by scam artists.

People see a tragedy like the bombing, and they want to help.  The Better Business Bureau is warning people that scammers are using that generosity to set up fake charities.

The United Way says that is pretty common for tragedies or disasters.  Most of the time the scammers will call or go door-to-door. If you've never heard of the organization, hold off on donating.  Ask for their information and then check up on them.

"Just because they have a website doesn't mean they are a valid charity," said Great River United Way Executive Director Mary Kay Wolf, "so once you have the name of it you can just politely say thanks I will look in to your organization, and then there are some places you can go to check on the organization."

What are those places?  The websites guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org will give you information if the charity is valid.  Charities in Wisconsin also have to register with the state, so you can check state files.

That might take a day or two which means you won't be able to donate to the organization right away.  "You may have to send them away and say you'll think about it but  that should be ok because even if a disaster has a sense of urgency," said Wolf, "there isn't any urgency that couldn't wait two days for you to look them up online."

Also keep in mind, if a charity has popped up a day or two after a disaster be cautious, it can take years to get accredited by the state, doing it in a day is almost impossible.

It's also important to ask how the funds will be used before they collect your donation, so you can make sure your money will help victims.  And be cautious of any charity that says 100% of the proceeds will go to victims. It's unrealistic that a group will have no overhead to cover things like mailings and leaflets.

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