Helping Newtown: How To Avoid Charity Hoaxes Post-Tragedy

12/20/2012 12:20 pm ET

Trying to profit off someone's pain is a unique form of evil, but unfortunately it is not unheard of after tragedies like the Newtown school massacre.

Less than a week after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., a stranger to 6-year-old victim Noah Pozner attempted to collect money in his memory, the AP reports. The scammer even had a website listing information about Noah’s funeral and various petitions on gun control. But the address listed for sending donations was located in the Bronx, N.Y., at a location that the Pozner family had never heard of.

"These scammers are stealing from the families of victims of this horrible tragedy," Alexis Haller, Noah’s uncle, told the AP.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, the Pozner’s aren’t alone when it comes to scammers using their personal tragedy to turn a profit. Connecticut officials are warning residents of possible scams and encouraged people to be careful about donating to charities, CBS New York reported.

Also on Wednesday, the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan alerted people of multiple reports of illegitimate charity solicitations that say they are for victims' families in Newtown. Some scam artists are even using fake Facebook pages to solicit donations, according to a screenshot shared on the blog Not Before Coffee.

A rise in charity hoaxes after tragedies like the Newtown massacre is nothing new. Scammers reportedly tried to take advantage after the shooting in Aurora, Colo., the shooting at Columbine High School and even after 9/11.

Here are some tips on how to avoid charity scams:

Do your research: The Better Business Bureau advises researching each charity when considering donations on the bureau's website, give.org.

Check with state regulators
: The National Association of State Charity Officials has information on its website specific to each state.

Avoid unfamiliar websites
: Given advances in technology that allow scammers to be just a click away from collecting your money, the Better Business Bureau also suggests contacting charities directly before sending over money.

Request information in writing: Avoid donating to a charity that approaches you on the street or tries to give you information over the phone. Getting information in writing is a great test to see if the charity really is legitimate, the American Institute Of Philanthropy says.

Be wary of charities with similar-sounding names: Often times charity scam artists will choose a name that is similar to the name of a legitimate charity on the chance that donors will mistake the hoax for the real deal, Business Insider reports.

Be skeptical of charities that only collect cash: If a charity seems eager to get your money immediately and will only take cash, you should be wary of how legitimate the charity really is, BI also said.

Avoid "we're going to help the victims and families": Vague fundraising claims on the part of charities should immediately put up a red flag, Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, told ABC News

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