Disasters attract good Samaritans and scammers

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Natural disasters bring out the best – and worst – in people, says the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

Most want to help, but scammers are quick to take advantage of people’s willingness to assist those affected by hurricanes and wildfires, the DA said in a statement Friday.

The latest scam targets people selling equipment used for disaster relief, such as diesel generators, chainsaws, motor boats and boating supplies, on websites like Craigslist or eBay, the DA’s office reported.

The scammer contacts the seller and claims to be gathering disaster relief supplies. The lawbreaker persuades the victim to donate the item or sell it at a greatly reduced price, but the equipment is never used for relief efforts. Instead, the scammer resells it for profit.

When selling equipment, if asked to donate the item, the seller should

  • Ask if the buyer is with a disaster relief organization.
  • Confirm the group’s legitimacy by searching with tools such as the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations Select Check
  • Make sure the item will be needed for rescue efforts when it’s delivered at a later date
  • Review the caller’s area code to verify that he or she actually lives near the disaster area

Incidents of fraud can be reported to the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs at 800-593-8222 or https://dcba.lacounty.gov.

 

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