The West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office is cautioning residents of the Mountain State to not be fooled by two scams going around. One of those scams involves the tragic accident that led to the deaths of two firefighters from the Pratt Volunteer Fire Department. The other scam involves collecting donations for a non-existent volunteer fire department fund.
“It is concerning any time someone is identifying themselves under false pretenses,” said WV Fire Marshal Ken Tyree. “We want people supporting our fire departments, but make sure your are dealing with legitimate associations.”
Tyree suggested that West Virginians who wish to support their local fire department should reach out to them directly and find out how they can help.
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.
If you think you have been a victim of a scam, you are encouraged to contact the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline. The number is 1-800-368-8808.