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Trying To Help Slide Victims? Beware Of Disaster Relief Fraud

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
In this Wednesday, April 16, 2014, photo, a flag hangs on one of two buildings pushed together near the edge of the massive deadly mudslide that hit the community of Oso, Wash., on March 22, 2014.

Think twice before clicking on a link soliciting money for victims of the March 22 mudslide that has claimed 41 lives. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan says fraud is always a problem as people begin to recover from a disaster. 

Durkan and Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe are urging anyone who is aware of disaster relief fraud to call the toll-free National Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721, send an email to

Durkan says things like Kickstarter campaigns to help individual families can be useful, but contributors still need to exercise caution.

"We see, in everyday life, all types of fundraising screens that are nothing more than fraud on the Internet, whether it be Kickstarter-type of fundraising that are crowdsourcing or Facebook promotions, so people really have to be careful. The rule should be: know who you're giving to. If you want to help, know who you're giving to," Durkan said.

Officials say giving to established charities will usually guarantee that your money will go to disaster victims. The United Way of Snohomish County on Monday announced plans to distribute $400,000 in disaster relief. Arlington and Darrington will each get half of that.

Among the U.S. attorney's guidelines for avoiding disaster fraud:

?• Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.

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

• Do not be pressured into making contributions. Reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.

?• Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files as the files may contain viruses. ?

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.