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Sam Penrod ReportingScams involving the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts are becoming a problem nationwide and even popping up here in Utah. Utahns have been very generous and responded to the need for victims of Katrina by volunteering, supplying goods and making cash donations. But sadly, a few are trying to take advantage of the tragic situation.
Today a crackdown was announced by federal prosecutors on people who are trying to defraud Americans who want to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. US Dept. of Justice: "To anyone contemplating any kind of fraudulent scheme that takes advantage of hurricane Katrina and her aftermath, let me be very clear, federal, state and local law enforcement officials are watching carefully and we will have zero tolerance for these kids of crimes."
This tough talk comes after numerous websites have popped up on the internet soliciting donations. Others are using fake emails. And it's happening here in Utah too.
Yesterday at a Wal-Mart in Orem, a woman was outside of the store asking for donations for the Red Cross. It wasn't long before store security noticed the woman and figured she had no business being there, especially since she had on a white t-shirt with 'red cross' written in lipstick.
Lt. Doug Edwards, Orem Dept. Of Public Safety: "So we have to suspect she wasn't representing the Red Cross; and we urge people to be careful there are some people taking advantage of a tragedy in the country and looking to get some personal gain out of it."
The woman had already collected 80-dollars, which the store manager confiscated and will turn over to the Red Cross. But the suspect got away before police arrived.
Lt. Doug Edwards: "We just want to urge people to be careful about where they want to direct their well-meaning resources and make sure they go where they are really going to do some good."
Of course, we don't want to discourage those who want to give, just want to make sure your money goes to help those in need. And if you have questions about a charity, you can check the link at the right of this story for a list of legitimate charities.