Beware Tornado-Related Scams in Aftermath of Oklahoma City

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The victims in Oklahoma need help — but scammers will inevitably try to prey on our desire to reach out. Here's what to do.

You’ll find plenty of ways to offer help to the victims of Monday’s deadly Oklahoma City tornado, but some of them will be fake. It happens every time disaster strikes: Imposters and scammers will mislead the public and try to steal your personal information or your money.

In the wake of tragedy, it’s important to take extra care when you’re trying to help out.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, a Twitter account posing as the marathon organizer claimed it would donate money for each retweet (sharing of its message) it received, NBC Los Angeles says. Also, cybercrooks created fake news and charity pages about both the bombing and the Texas fertilizer plant explosion in an effort to plant malware in viewers’ computers, McAfee.com says.

Here are some of the ways The Oklahoman says you can help disaster victims:

  • Text Red Cross to 90999 to donate $10.
  • Refer people who haven’t heard from missing loved ones to www.safeandwell.org.
  • Donate to The Salvation Army online, by phone at (800) 725-2769 or by texting STORM to 80888 and confirming a $10 donation by typing “yes.”
  • Donate to Feed the Children online or call (800) 627-4556.

The Better Business Bureau has disaster relief donation advice. Here’s the gist of it, from a story we did just last month warning about marathon scammers:

Do some research to make sure the charity is not poorly organized or questionable. If it’s brand new, it may be one or both.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of when and how the money will be used to help victims. You can find spending reports and tax documents for established charities at Charity NavigatorCharityWatch and GuideStar.

If you’re donating online, pay attention to the links you’re clicking and make sure the Web address is exactly what it should be, because some scammers try to imitate the look of established charities.

Stacy Johnson

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