Scammers in the wake of Va. Tech

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna urge citizens to watch out for scam artists playing off legitimate charitable efforts following the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech.

Soon after the shootings, scammers began creating fraudulent charity Web sites. The Sans Internet Storm Center has warned that at least 25 new domain names have been registered. Some are legitimate, but others are likely to be fraudulent with hopes of collecting on the heels of a tragic situation. To date, no such charity scams have surfaced in Washington state.

People need to be extra cautious with telephone and Internet solicitations, especially from unfamiliar groups.

"Be wary of requests that play on your emotions, but fail to adequately describe what the charity will do to address the needs of victims and their families," McKenna said. "Solicitors who are reluctant to provide details, pressure you for an immediate decision or decline to provide written information likely are not legitimate."

Under the state's Charitable Solicitation Act, most organizations and individuals who solicit charitable donations must register with the Secretary of State and disclose general and certain financial information. Consumers should ask several key questions and verify the information before they write out a check.

* Is the charity registered with the state of Washington?

* What is the name, address and telephone number of the organization asking for the donation?

* Exactly how will the donation be used?

* What percentage of the contribution will be spent on the charitable purpose of the organization?

Consumers can check whether a charity is registered by calling the Secretary of State's toll-free Charities Information Hotline at 1-800-332-4483.

If you contribute, do not give cash. Make check or money order out to the name of the charitable organization, not the individual collecting the donation. Consumers also should not give a credit card number or other personal information to a telephone solicitor.[[In-content Ad]]