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Elderly targeted in scams to help Japan
by Tribune Staff
Mar 23, 2011 | 905 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) is warning all residents of Washoe County to be aware of scams in which impostors posed as friends, family, respected companies and government agencies to get people to send money immediately via a money transfer service to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Since the disaster, reports of fraudulent activities have been increasing through persons representing themselves as working through reputable charities.

The WCSO Financial Crimes Unit offers the following precautions:

• Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages because they could contain computer viruses.

• Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of environmental organizations or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.

• Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.

• Rather than follow a professed link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources to confirm the group’s existence and its nonprofit status.

• Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files could contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

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

• Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such pressure tactics.

• Be aware of whom you are dealing with when providing your personal and financial information. Providing such information can lead to identity theft.

• 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.

• Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.

• Do not send money via Western Union or any electronic means if you’re called regarding a loved one who has been incarcerated in another county, state, or country without verification of that family member’s status.

• Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fundraising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at the very minimum, a processing fee.

• Legitimate charities websites end in .org rather than .com.

The WCSO encourages the public to report these fraudulent scams to law enforcement immediately by calling 832-9276.

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