FBI: Beware of disaster relief scams - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

FBI: Beware of disaster relief scams

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The death toll in Nepal after the devastating earthquake continues has risen past 4,600, and as help continues to pour in, the FBI has warned people about scammers.

FBI officials said some scammers will call people on the phone, but many will reach out online through emails and social media.

According to the FBI, people all over the world are being victimized.

Heartbreaking images after any disaster will leave many people wanting to help, but it's during tragic times that others are looking to scam people.

"You will have criminals, scammers, and fraudsters trying to take advantage of the public's good will," said FBI special agent Darrell Foxworth.

He said criminals often pose as victims or family members of victims.

Scammers have known to to create fake organizations which sound similar to the ones most people have heard of, much which is done online.

"Basically what they're doing is they're taking the money. They're setting up websites to collect money," said FBI agent Foxworth.

He also said scammers usually ask for cash, or checks made payable to someone's name, not an organization.

That is a red flag.

"So they'll say if you send the money to me, John Doe, I will make sure this money will go to the people or other organizations that are helping. You don't need to do that. You don't need an intermediary," he said.

Other signs of a possible scam: websites ending in (dot)-.com. Reputable organizations have websites that end in (dot)-.org.

FBI agent Foxworth also said to watch out for scammers who ask to be paid through a money order, or other transfer services like Western Union.

Barry La Forgia, the executive director of International Relief Teams, which has a four-star rating, said his organization has been collecting funds, as opposed to supplies, because it is cheaper to buy things closer to Nepal and send them from there.

La Forgia said it could take years before the people of Nepal can go back to living a normal life.

"We're still working in New Jersey after Super-Storm Sandy. It's been three years and that's in our own country with a lot of resources," he said.

The FBI and the National Center for Disaster Fraud have a 24-hour hotline people can call if they believe they have been scammed.

The hotline number is 888-720-5721.

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