The West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office is warning residents about phone scammers posing as local fire departments asking for money.
The Fire Marshal has received complaints from individuals who were contacted to make donations to a nonexistent volunteer tire department fund. A second scam soliciting money for the recent tragedy in Pratt has also been reported. West Virginians are urged to be vigilant when receiving any kind of solicitation.
The Federal Trade Commission suggests the following to help ensure that donation dollars will benefit the people, organization, or community you want to help.
- Ask fund-raisers for identification. Many states require paid fund-raisers to identify themselves as such and to name the organization for which they’re soliciting.
- Ask how your contribution will be used. Ask what percentage of your contribution will go to the fire or police organization, department, or program. Also ask if your contribution will be used locally. Get written information.
- Call the organization or your local police or fire department to verify a fund-raiser’s claim to be collecting on behalf of the organization or department. If the claim cannot be verified, report the solicitation to your local law enforcement officials.
- Ask if your contribution is tax-deductible. Make your check payable to the official name of the group or charity. Avoid cash gifts: Cash can be lost or stolen.
- Be wary if a fund-raiser suggests you’ll receive special treatment for donating. For example, no legitimate fund-raiser would guarantee that you won’t be stopped for speeding if you have a police organization’s decal in your car window. Don’t feel intimidated about declining to give. A caller who uses intimidation tactics is likely to be a scam artist. Report the call to your local law enforcement officials.
West Virginia State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree says, “It is concerning any time someone is identifying themselves under false pretenses. We want people supporting our fire departments, but make sure you are dealing with legitimate associations.”
If you wish to donate you should reach out to your local fire department and find out how you can help them directly.
If you think you have been a victim of a scam you are urged to contact the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-368-8808.