CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State and federal officials are warning consumers to be wary of fraudulent charities seeking to exploit Superstorm Sandy and the holiday giving season.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin both issued warnings this week urging residents be on the lookout for fake charities.
Both said con artists might try to take advantage of a public desire to give following the disaster and ahead of the holiday season.
"There are citizens still trying to put their lives back in order as a result of last month's devastating storm," Goodwin said in a statement. "West Virginians are still eager to help out. I ask people to continue to use caution: there are criminals who will take advantage of that generosity."
He said the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have warned the public to scrutinize all charitable solicitations seeking donations on behalf of Sandy victims.
These solicitations can come in a variety of forms, including emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods.
Sometimes the solicitors will use heavy-handed or coercive tactics as a way to pressure people into giving.
"My concern is that people who are running fraudulent organizations will call West Virginians and try to get them to donate money by making them feel like they have to donate money," Tennant said in a statement.
Goodwin said the best way to be safe is to stick with well-known charitable organizations.
"It's a good idea to stick with charities you know and trust," he said. "If a stranger calls and asks you for money, do your homework before donating. And if you suspect someone is up to no good, call the authorities."
Tennant said people should do their best to get as much information on an organization as possible.
"The best thing you can do if you're contacted by a charity you think isn't legitimate is to ask as many questions as you can," Tennant said. "Ask where the charity is located, where the money will be going, and if they could send you literature.