In the aftermath of the recent mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California Attorney General Rob Bonta called for a vigilant eye on potential fraud and scams related to crowdfunding campaigns for victims. So if you're planning on donating, make sure the source is real.
“Our nation has once again been forced to face more senseless gun violence. From Monterey Park to Half Moon Bay, our entire state is reeling,” said Attorney General Bonta.
He noted that while we have a lot of work ahead of us, people are also coming together to support those who are suffering and have lost loved ones.
“I encourage all Californians to extend a helping hand where possible and take advantage of the resources available throughout the state.”
But he noted that if they plan to donate, they should watch out for scammers and do their research before making a donation.
“My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering right now, and we at the California Department of Justice will continue to do our part to support response efforts.”
Throughout California, he said there are a variety of state and local community entities that can provide assistance and financial support, funeral and mental health resources for crime victims, survivors and their families.
However, he mentioned that after the tragedy, there are those who seek to take advantage of people's and communities' desire to help.
“Before donating, do your research,” stressed the attorney.
And it is that he said that those who operate these fundraising pages formed overnight in response to the crisis, may or may not be well-intentioned, without the experience, contacts or personnel to fulfill their commitment. Therefore, you have to be very careful.
Tips before making a donation:
Research the organizer: Learn as much as you can about the organizer before making a contribution. Use Google and LinkedIn to find it. Does the organizer have experience in the campaign area? Take a look at their Facebook page. Does it seem fake? Are friends real? Is there feedback in real time? Be suspicious of pages that were created just before the campaign began.
Research crowdfunding platforms – There are many different crowdfunding platforms, and they all have different rules. If you want a refund, you may need to get it from the organizer. Some platforms provide refunds only in certain situations, i.e. when the organizer makes false statements or is charged with a crime.
Do a reverse image search: Fake campaigns often copy and paste other people's stories or photos.
Doing a reverse image search of the photos used in the campaign, as well as those used on the organizer's social media pages, can show you if the photos are stolen. Be careful if the campaign runs on multiple sites. Scammers will do this to reach more people.
Contact the organizer and ask questions: Every crowdfunding site allows you to ask the organizer questions through the comments section. If an organizer regularly answers questions, it's more likely that they aren't trying to scam you.
Be wary: Beware of campaigns that make you feel sorry for someone, but don't give you any details about how your money will be used. Be very careful after a major disaster or tragedy because scammers will often try to take advantage of your desire to help victims. Beware of campaigns that seem too good to be true. They probably are.
Understand the purpose of crowdfunding – Remember that there is no guarantee that the crowdfunding campaign will be successful. When donating to a good cause, contributions are probably not tax deductible unless they are made to a non-profit organization.
Learn more: Learn about crowdfunding and how to file a complaint through the Department of Justice. here.
Resources for Crime Victims:
California Department of Justice Victim Services Unit
Find them online at https://oag.ca.gov/victimservices;
Call 1-877-433-9069; either
Email: [email protected]
Resource Center for Crime Victims
Find them online at https://1800victims.org/ (Online Chat Available);
Text or call 1-800-842-8467; either
Email [email protected]
US Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime
Find them online at: https://ovc.ojp.gov;
Find resources specific to Monterey Park here;
Call 1-202-307-5983; either
Email [email protected]
Additional and In-Person Resources:
Along with community organizations, the City of Monterey Park and Los Angeles County have established a Victim and Survivor Resource Center at the Langley Senior Center to support people in Southern California. The center is located at 400 West Emerson Ave., Monterey Park, CA 91754. The center is currently open daily from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm and can be reached at 1-626-307-1395.
Services offered at the center include mental health, crisis response, and victim support. Los Angeles County District Attorney's Bureau of Victim Services also offers support for victims, survivors, and their families.
For those affected by the Half Moon Bay mass shooting, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Victim Services Division is available to provide assistance.
Resources such as emergency food and shelter, legal and health services can be found throughout cities and counties.
For those in need of pro bono legal support, they can contact the State Bar of California and, for those who have been victims of violent crime, the California Victim Compensation Board can help cover related expenses.