Officials warn of false Surfside charity sites

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 4:22 PM EDT
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(CNN) - As victims continue to be unaccounted for in the debris of the condo collapse in Florida, officials are sending out a warning about scammers setting up false charity sites hoping to profit off this tragedy.

“We’ve seen the best in people. Unfortunately, you also see the worst in people,” Florida State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said.

Anyone who may want to donate money toward relief efforts should beware.

“There are fraudulent GoFundMe accounts already popping up,” he said. “We’ve already had some scammer who’s developed some type of not-for-profit out of New Jersey who’s tried to create this opportunity to steal people’s information and identity.”

To avoid scams, the Federal Trade Commission has some helpful tips.

  • Block unwanted calls and text messages.
  • Never give out personal or financial information in response to a request you did not expect.
  • Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses give you time to make a decision.
  • Before giving, talk to someone you trust. It could help you realize whether you are dealing with a scam.

In Surfside, Fla., officials say the Volunteer Florida website is the state-sponsored way to donate money to this tragedy.

“If you give money to a GoFundMe account, you might as well be throwing money out the window of your car. I highly discourage it,” Patronis said. “You can’t do enough due diligence to ensure your GoFundMe donation is going to a noble cause.”

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, you can report it to authorities at Fraud Free Florida.

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