BOSTON (CBS) – The Better Business Bureau rated this one the scam of the year. Not because it scammed the most people or stole the most money but because anyone using innocent victims to steal truly is heartless.

Within hours of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, CT, social media pages began cropping up dedicated to the victims.

Some of these pages were fake and attempted to solicit money from those looking to support the victims’ families such as helping to pay for a funeral. The scam worked because we all felt so vulnerable and helpless and wanted to reach out to the victims and their families.

These very sophisticated scammers use our emotions and our need to help in some way to their advantage. They ask us for the one thing we can give in a crisis, money.

Charity scams of all kinds pop up after a natural disaster or something as catastrophic as the Newtown shootings. They use social media, emails and phone calls to ask for your support. Send a check, your credit card number, or click onto PayPal to make a donation they ask.

After Hurricane Sandy had wreaked havoc with New Jersey and New York, many non-legitimate charities popped up. A couple in NJ started a website, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation, a very official sounding website claiming to be victims themselves and wanting to help other victims. They raised over $630,000 in a very short period of time. Less than 1% has been given to the victims.

In a natural disaster such as that, send money only to the Red Cross, which is set up to help immediately. Consider your church’s pleas or fraternal organizations and ignore the pleas from charities you don’t recognize.

The BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance offers tips for donors to understand how and when to best support those dealing with such a tragic crisis.


You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.


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