Steer clear of marathon disaster relief scams

Our hearts go out to strangers more than three thousand miles away. No matter the disaster, people in Washington state are known for giving. But where we see caring and compassion scammers see opportunity to cash in our sympathy.

Con artists tie their scams to news events and disasters are near the top of the list. So what happened in Boston yesterday makes us prime targets for fake charities and online scams promoting disaster relief.

"Every time a tragedy like this happens two things happen," said David Quinlan of the Better Business Bureau."First of all you've got a lot of people who have a generous heart. They want to do something, they want to give. And then you have a group of scumbags out there who want to do one thing, and that's to rip you off."

The warning is reinforced by State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who urge us to avoid making large cash donations. And when writing a check, always make the check out to the full name of the organization and never to an individual or to simple initials.

Before you give money to help the marathon bomb victims, remember, they're going to need help for weeks and months to come.

  • Take your time.
  • Say no to immediate donation requests to organizations you don't know.
  • Do your homework first ,make sure the charity is reputable.
  • Make sure they're registered as a charity with the Secretary of State.
  • And follow the money.

Find out how much money actually goes to the people who need it. Instead of scammers taking advantage of your caring heart.

Bottom line: Go with what you know. Don't be fooled by fake charity names that sound legit. And watch out for fake Facebook websites using unauthorized pictures of marathon runners.

Right now, the major organizations taking donations to help the Boston relief effort are Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital,
the Salvation Army, and the American Red Cross.