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Beware before donating: Officials warn of fraudulent crowdfunding pages after Florida condo collapse

Experts say that after disasters and tragedies, fake crowdfunding pages and scams often pop up trying to take money from people who want to help victims.

As rescue and recovery efforts continued after a Surfside, Fla., condo collapse, Miami-Dade officials have urged the public not to donate money to anyone purporting to be raising funds for the recovery efforts or for families, without first visiting Miami-Dade county's government website to find legitimate ways to donate. 

The Internal Revenue Service also warned the public about fraudulent schemes and fake charities, which can pop up around widely publicized tragedies and disasters.  

The organizations that local officials in South Florida support for relief donations are:

  • The Coral Gables Community Foundation, The Key Biscayne Community Foundation, The Knight Foundation, The Miami Foundation, Miami HEAT and Miami HEAT Charitable Fund which are working together to support recovering efforts and victims' families. More on the approved organizations can be found at SupportSurfside.org.
  • You can also donate to the United Way 
  • And The Chesed Fund. This is a central fund created by The Shul of Bal Harbour, and was formed to be dispersed as needed directly to the victims and families.

If you're looking to donate through GoFundMe, the crowdfunding site has created this page so that you can be sure your money is going to a legitimate effort to help victims.

A spokesperson for GoFundMe said the company has seen "no misuse" of its platform related to the tower collapse.

The IRS urges taxpayers to watch out for "scammers who set up fake organizations" which try and take advantage of the kindness of people who just want to help out. These scams are common over the phone, but also with the popularity of crowdfunding sites, with one of the most popular being GoFundMe.

The IRS gives this advice to avoid scams:

  • "Individuals should never let any caller pressure them. A legitimate charity will be happy to get a donation at any time, so there’s no rush. Donors are encouraged to take time to do the research."
  • "Potential donors should ask the fundraiser for the charity’s exact name, web address and mailing address, so it can be confirmed later. Some dishonest telemarketers use names that sound like large well-known charities to confuse people."
  • "Be careful how a donation is paid. Donors should not work with charities that ask them to pay by giving numbers from a gift card or by wiring money. That’s how scammers ask people to pay. It's safest to pay by credit card or check — and only after having done some research on the charity."

Officials in Surfside also urged those who would like to volunteer to not show up at the site of the collapse, but to please register at Miami-Dade county's emergency website, first, and wait to be called upon.

You can sign up to be an emergency relief volunteer on the county's website.


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