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May 23, 2013

OUR VIEW: Scammers seek profit from tragedy

We’re disgusted we even have to write this editorial.

As residents of Oklahoma City and its suburbs barely start the process of picking themselves up off the ground, we’ve already received warnings from state police about scammers looking to make a quick buck off the misfortune of others.

Towns were erased off the map by the rage of a top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado. With the tornado stretching more than a mile across, its 17-mile path was unbelievably devastating.

The search for the missing has nearly come to an end, with 24 on the books as victims. Ten of those were children. Those who did survive have likely not yet even begun to struggle with the decision of whether to rebuild or move on. Though the authorities have yet to say how many homes were destroyed, it’s clear it’s a decision hundreds will have to make.

None of this takes into account the emotional trauma, not only of those affected personally but also those whose hearts broke across the nation as news report came rolling in.

It’d been just a week since the carnage in Texas, and now we’re again watching helplessly as wind toppling 200 mph pulverizes a community.

Many want to help. It’s the way we are here in America. These types of situations tend to bring out the best in people. Many have already jumped in their cars and headed south, looking to help in any way they can. Many have already started collecting needed items. For many, monetarily is the only option for helping.

Unfortunately, these situations also tend to bring out the worst in some people. But don’t let that keep you from helping the victims and their effort to rebuild their lives. Just be smart about how you do it.

And that’s why the Indiana State Police has sent out an advisory about how to avoid scams.

Here’s the advice offered:

Be skeptical of those going door-to-door or making phone calls to residents claiming to be collecting for tornado relief. If you are contacted by someone asking for donations, ask questions. Ask the person collecting for credentials what organization he or she represents, if there is an address donations can be sent, etc.

If you are approached and feel someone is trying to scam you, try to get as much information as possible such as a name, description of the person, description of the vehicle including color, make, and license number if possible, then contact police.

Further, they advise, the best way to contribute is to donate money and other needed supplies through known legitimate organizations.

Here are some options we’ve found:

• Donate as little as $10 to the American Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts by texting “Red Cross” to 90999.

• Send contributions to The Salvation Army Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK 73157. Or call 1-800-725-2769.

• Other charities involved in the response efforts include: Feed the Children, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief and the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

For more information on donations, visit www.ok.gov/okstrong

We encourage you to help if you feel so inclined, but we also want you to make sure your hard-earned money gets into the hands of the people who really need it.

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