Fundraising scams rise with disasters; feds warn of scammers preying on people | VailDaily.com

Fundraising scams rise with disasters; feds warn of scammers preying on people

EAGLE — Natural disasters sometimes lead to unnatural greed.

With the hard work of cleaning up Houston after Hurricane Harvey, and another hurricane bearing down on Florida, local and national law enforcement officials say disaster scams will pop up.

"Unfortunately, criminals can exploit disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, for their own gain by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions," said the U.S. Department of Justice in a statement.

Solicitations can originate from social media, emails, websites, door-to-door collections, fliers, mailings, telephone calls and other methods.

Do not respond to them. In fact, don't even clink on links in emails because they might contain computer viruses.

Scholarship scams

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In Eagle and Garfield counties, the latest scam is for someone to approach you either directly or knock on your door. The perpetrator claims he or she in a contest to win scholarship money for college. They generally specify a specific college in the state or a local college. They claim the contest involves raising money for the troops.

They may ask for cash, a credit card number or personal contact information. Do not provide them with any of this, said Walt Stowe, with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office.

If you feel inclined to do something, then contact the college and verify that it is a legitimate program of the college.

IRS scams are back

This one has been around for a few years, and is enjoying a resurgence, said the IRS.

The IRS insists it does not call people. However, phone messages left by scammers claiming to be from the IRS will say you owe taxes and will be arrested if you don't call back.

The scammers may even have a team that claims to be officers, with badge numbers and case numbers. They'll claim they've audited your taxes for the past five years and will assert that you've been underpaying. They'll also say this call is your last chance to clear it up before being arrested.

"There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue but through official correspondence sent through the mail."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

To report a scam

Disaster scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721, or send an email to disaster@leo.gov.