State and local officials warn of fraudulent charity scams

by Cameron Sheppard
March 23, 2020 11:45 PM

OLYMPIA — Washington residents are being warned not to donate to fraudulent charities as Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman issued a joint advisory regarding scammers.

“In this unprecedented situation, many of us are searching for ways to help,” Ferguson said via a written statement. “Unfortunately, scammers look for ways to prey on Washingtonians’ good will.”

Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said he has not received any reports of fake-charity scammers, but he still said the agency likes to take a “proactive approach” when preventing scammers from taking advantage of county residents.

On March 18, the official Twitter page of the Grant County Sheriff’s Office posted a scam warning, urging residents to “watch out for COVID-19 scams,” and to only donate to “known and reputable charities.”

Kyle Foreman, a spokesperson for GCSO, said scammers often try to take advantage of generous residents looking to donate to charities claiming to help during disasters like the COVID-19 outbreak.

“During times of crisis, people want to help,” Foreman explained. “But, there are grifters out there.”

Capt. Ryan Green of the Quincy Police Department retweeted the Grant County Sheriff scam advisory tweet, but said his department has not received any complaints of scammers in the community as yet.

State and local officials agree that the best advice for those looking to donate and help out during the coronavirus outbreak is to do their research and verify that the charity they want to give to is a legitimate organization.

Foreman encouraged people to search the internet and check on the organization’s webpage to try to confirm its legitimacy.

Jones said charities are often registered with a city or rated by the Better Business Bureau.

Potential donors can also check to see if an organization is registered with the Secretary of State’s office at www.sos.wa.gov/charities. If the charity is registered, you can view a summary of its tax status and financial records.

Green said donors should be suspicious if they are being called by people claiming to work for charities. He said if people want to give, they should reach out themselves and not be pressured into making a donation to an unverified organization.

Ferguson urged donors via written statement to file complaints about fraudulent charities online at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.