United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
U.S. Attorney And Snohomish County Prosecutor Alert Public To Beware Of Disaster Fraud In Aftermath Of Oso Landslide
National Disaster Fraud Hotline Always Alert to Scams
U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan and Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe urged Washington residents and businesses today to be aware of the potential for fraud in the aftermath of the recent devastating Oso landslide. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Snohomish County Sheriff and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF), wants to remind the public that anyone can report fraud involving disaster relief operations through the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“These tragic events have brought out the best in our community, through countless acts of kindness, courage and heroism,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “Unfortunately, these national disasters can also breed predators seeking to defraud victims or scam the system. Local and federal law enforcement are watching. We will protect the victims and we will prosecute those that try to turn this tragedy into criminal profit.”
“There has been a huge outpouring of support and generosity for those affected by the slide. Unfortunately there are always those few who hide larcenous intentions behind a cloak of mock charity. That cloak will not hide them from justice. Washington watches out for its own,” said Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe.
Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should be mindful of certain guidelines:
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims 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 following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by utilizing various internet-based resources.
- Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations 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 coercive tactics.
- Be aware with whom you are dealing when providing your personal and financial information. Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable 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.
- Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than.com
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of mudslide victims, if you discover fraudulent disaster relief claims submitted by a person or organization, or if you know about or suspect fraud involving disaster relief operations, you can report it through the National Disaster Fraud Hotline, toll free, at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at email@example.com.
The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.