Ventura police are warning residents about charity scams targeting donations to wildfire victims in an alert issued by the department Wednesday.
With the Woolsey Fire burning through just over 150 square miles, it has wiped out more than 480 structures and claimed three lives as it tears through Los Angeles and Ventura counties, according to Cal Fire.
Given the many charities collecting assistance and funds for the victims — GoFundMe has an entire hub devoted to SoCal fire relief — police are offering tips to those looking to give.
The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance can also offer guidance and the organization can be reached at 703-276-0100.
The following is a list provided by the Ventura Police Department.
- Donate to charities you know and trust.
- Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight.
- Do not give out personal or financial information including your credit card or bank account number unless you know the charity is reputable.
- Never send cash by mail.
- Be suspicious of random calls requesting a donation.
- Be cautious about clicking on links in emails requesting a donation.
- Check out a charity before you donate by contacting the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at 703-276-0100 or at website http://www.give.org.
Police have also released a list of types of phone scams.
- IRS Scam: The scammer says money is owed and must be paid immediately by phone.
- Edison/Gas Scam: The scammer says money is owed and if not paid immediately the service will be turned off.
- Jury Duty Scam: The scammer says money is owed for not showing up to jury duty and if not paid jail time will occur.
- "Can You Hear Me" Scam: Scammers are calling victims hoping to get them to say the word "yes" during the conversation that's being recorded. The scammer will later use the recording of the victim saying yes to authorize unwanted charges on the victim's utility or credit card account.
- Text Message Phishing Scam: Scammers are using a new texting scam and spoofing banks' phone numbers and sending text messages to customers. A spoofed phone number hides the actual number the text is coming from and displays a number from a trusted source, like your bank. The text claims that your debit card has been used to make a purchase and if you do not recognize the transaction, you need to call their fraud prevention helpline. A phone number is provided for you to call. Because the incoming text looks like it's from your bank, people are falling for this. If you do call the number provided in the text, the fraudster will answer the phone. They will then ask you to sensitive banking details. This would allow the scammer to steal money from your account.
- Grandparent Scam: A scammer poses as a grandchild and claims to be in jail and in need of money for bail. These imposters claim they are in another state or out of the country and need money wired to help bail them out of jail.
Police say personal or financial information should never be provided to someone over the phone. Phone and computer scams should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP or by visiting ftc.gov/complaint. Ventura police can be reached at 805-339-4400.