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Avoid scams that take advantage of tragic situations

Avoid scams that take advantage of...

Two families who lost loved ones in a boating accident also learned they had been scammed out of thousands of dollars.

Last summer three people were killed in a boat crash on Lake Coeur d'Alene. Katie Rafter offered to hold a memorial rodeo to benefit the families of Justin Luhr and Justin Honken. But, Spokane County Sheriff's Deputies say Rafter diverted $14,000 of the $30,000 raised so she could buy a tanning salon.

"She's devastated everybody. Taken away the faith," said Doug Honken, Justin Honken's father. "All those hundreds of people that donated their time, their money, their auction items... the community who came to honor these two young men, and she slapped them all int he face."

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office and the Better Business Bureau say scammers like to prey on emotional and vulnerable situations.

"There's always those out there that are willing to take advantage of such a tragedy, and it's completely sad to see something like this happen," said Mark Gregory with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The Better Business Bureau says there things you can do to make sure if you're a donor or a beneficiary, you aren't victim of a similar scam.

First, don't be afraid to ask questions. "Ask where the money is being held," said Kirsten Davis with the BBB. "What institution? Is it a well known institution? Are there dual signers? Is one of the signers the actual beneficiary?"

Also, be cautious of donating to sites where you don't know who is handling the money. Scams like this even prompted GoFundMe to create the GoFundMe Guarantee. Under this guarantee, the site allows beneficiaries and donors to file a claim if they see funds being misused.

And even though it may be uncomfortable, the BBB says you shouldn't be afraid to talk to beneficiaries to make sure they know where the funds are. Davis suggested asking several questions. "How did the fundraising go? Have they disbursed funds to you yet? And keep in touch," she said.

The BBB also says the best case scenario for a fundraising event is to actually have the beneficiary as one of the signers or one of the account holders on that fund.


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