Attorney General Hardy Myers today alerted Oregonians to the possibility of "disaster scammers" operating in the state following Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
"Disasters, especially of this magnitude, bring out both the best and the worst of our citizens," Myers said. "As experienced during the 1996 winter floods, con artists were on the phones and at our doors within hours of the devastation. Oregon consumers must be watchful for a variety of schemes and scams."
Fraudulent telemarketers are expected to be calling Oregon homes and businesses as early as today asking for donations to assist the New York City victims and their families. Oregonians should watch for callers representing bogus charities who will ask for direct donations of cash or checks to be sent to a post office box or to be picked up by a runner, who just happens to be in the donors' neighborhood.
"We all must take the time to check out so-called charities calling for money," Myers said. "Appeals for money to buy blankets, food and shelter for victims could be totally phony." Scammers have been known to use the names of legitimate non-profits such as the American Red Cross or use names that are very similar such as the Oregon Red Cross.
The Department of Justice urges both consumers and businesses to check out all solicitations for disaster assistance by calling the local office of the charity for verification. Non-profit charitable corporations and professional fundraisers, who call on their behalf, must be registered with the Justice Charitable Activities Section. Information on both groups is available by calling (503) 229-5725.
"Giving of your time and money to legitimate charities is very important during times of disaster," Myers said. "But donating to a known charity with a track record for doing good work and specific experience with disaster relief seems the best choice to make during these confusing times."
Consumers may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392 to register complaints or to request information about specific businesses. A current list of registered charities can be accessed through the Department of Justice web site at www.doj.state.or.us.
Victoria Cox, (971) 673-1880
Kristen Grainger, (503) 378-6002 (media line only)