Scams target Colorado flood victims, people who want to donate to charity

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. - As property owners in some Front Range communities begin to plan their recovery from the catastrophic flooding, scammers are already at work.

"It's a very real problem and threat. As a matter of fact, one of our sergeants had one of these scammers at his front door yesterday offering roof repair," Wheat Ridge Police Department spokesman John Romero wrote in an email Tuesday.

Right now, Romero says, the primary threat is illegitimate roofers.

Police nickname these threats "gypsy" or "storm chaser" scams. Romero said they are small groups that travel the country, committing fraud, theft and burglary in communities recovering from natural disasters.

Typically, the scam artists ask for cash or check payment upfront. The work they promise is not completed or is poorly done.

Often, Romero warns, the scams target the elderly.

Another scam to be aware of involves false charities. The Federal Trade Commission urges everyone to do some research to ensure that donations will go to reputable organizations.

"Urgent appeals that you get in person, by phone or mail, by e-mail, on websites, or on social networking sites may not be on the up-and-up," the FTC writes. "Unfortunately, legitimate charities face competition from fraudsters who either solicit for bogus charities or aren't entirely honest about how a so-called charity will use your contribution."

The FTC offers these tips for picking a charity to donate to:

- Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.

- Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer – or if you don’t like the answer – consider donating to a different organization.

- Don’t give out personal or financial information – including your credit card or bank account number – a unless you know the charity is reputable.

- Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.

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