Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Aug 20 2015

Officials Warn of Bogus Relief Efforts, Encourage Wise Giving

SEATTLE — With emotions running high today because of the three firefighter deaths in Washington State, Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office strongly urge well-intended donors to use extreme caution before giving to wildfire relief efforts.

Often times during a natural disaster, con artists setup fake official-sounding charities pretending to help raise money for the victims of the disaster.

“All of us in Washington and around the country have deep empathy for those affected by the wildfires,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.  “It is a natural instinct to want to provide assistance right away, but I advise potential donors to exercise caution and make sure their hard-earned dollars go for the purpose intended, not to line the pockets of scam-artists.”

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones at this tragic time,” said Tyler Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “We encourage donors to give only to charities they can trust. The last thing we want to see is someone’s good intentions going into the hands of ruthless scam artists.”

Keep in mind con artists impersonate legitimate entities using materials with borrowed names and logos. Hold back from charitable solicitors that:

  • Demand donations using threats, aggressive tactics or deadlines.
  • Only accept cash donations or checks made out to them personally.
  • Can’t explain what kind of relief will be offered, how it will be distributed, who will benefit, when it will be allocated and what percentage of donations benefit causes.

Be wary of cybercriminals who target those looking for news updates and wanting to help. While online, be careful of:

  • Search engine results from unknown or untrustworthy websites.
  • Unsolicited emails, instant messages and social media posts from unknown senders.
  • Videos or news stories with unusual or shocking headlines.

Protect computers, click carefully and guard personal data. Ensure that anti-virus software, security patches and firewalls are installed, active and up-to-date.

Better Business Bureau and the Washington Attorney General advise consumers to research a charity before donating money.

Lookup charity information on the Washington Secretary State “Information for Donors” page or call 1-800-332-4483. Consumers can also search for information on BBB.org or Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

If someone feels they are the victim of a scam, file a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.