AUSTIN – Scammers take a ghoulish interested in tragedies, which has prompted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to warn state consumers to be cautious about charitable appeals in the wake of the police shootings in Dallas.
"Texans are known for opening their hearts and their wallets to others in times of need," Paxton was quoted in a press release. "Paxton encourages any citizens who want to donate to the victims of the Dallas shootings to give compassionately, but give carefully."
On July 7, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed police officers during a peaceful protest in Dallas, killing five officers and wounding nine other officers and two bystanders, according to news reports. The tragedy has attracted scammers nationwide, according to media reports.
"While there are many legitimate charities, there are also fraudulent ones that prey on the generosity of Texans," Paxton said in his news release. "Do not get taken by scammers who may set up fake charities or funds to make money off the Dallas tragedy. Be wary of anyone calling and asking for donations by credit card. Con artists will sometimes send emails directing recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with credible charitable causes. Another warning sign is a vague appeal for money that does not specify how it will be used or distributed."
Online fundraising can provide money in a hurry for those individuals and families left behind by victims of tragedies such as those in the Dallas shootings. Websites such as GoFundMe are very popular. A campaign to support the family of Alton Sterling, killed by police in Baton Rouge July 5, was posted by the family’s attorney, according to a USA Today report.
The success of such fundraising efforts attracts the attention of scammers. The Fort Worth division of the Better Business Bureau also warned about charitable scams related to the Dallas shootings. There are a number of signs a charitable appeal might be a scam, according to the Fort Worth Better Business Bureau. Those signs include an emotional appeal asking for immediate action, phone calls, emails, social media posts, and crowd-funding websites requesting credit card information or for cash-only donations, and unspecified or vague information about how a donation will be used.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Police Department has made recommendations for anyone interested in making a charitable contribution that really will do some good, according to Paxton's news release. Those recommendations are to the Assist the Officer Foundation, the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation and The Dallas Foundation.
"All three funds are intended to help with funeral costs and assist the families of the five law enforcement officers killed in last week’s horrific attack," Paxton's news release said.
Paxton also asked Texans to help combat charity fraud in the state by reporting suspicious solicitations. "Write down the date and time of the call, the organization’s name, and the name and phone number of the solicitor," Paxton said in the release.
Residents also may file a complaint online with the Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office and learn more about frauds and scams at the Texas attorney general's website.