Be careful, some scam artists at work now

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 21, 2001

It’s been 10 days now, and the wound is still fresh.

I still cringe whenever I see the videotape of the secondairplane hitting the World Trade Center or of those mighty towerscrumbling like houses of cards.

I still get teary-eyed when I see families at the Wall of theMissing in New York, refusing to give up hope that their loved oneswill come out alive. But, how much hope can remain for the morethan 6,000 now listed as missing?

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Pride swells now when I see an American flag — and so many areflying — or when I see how folks from so many different walks oflife are working together in the wake of this tragedy.

And, I’m angry, too. I’m mad that this happened in the firstplace, but I’m furious at those who are trying to make a dollar offthe suffering of others.

Just hours after the attacks, gasoline prices went up at a lotof service stations here and other places. That stopped when theattorney general and the governor threatened to start arrestingpeople, but some stations still haven’t lowered their prices to thepre-attack mark.

My advice on that — you know where you buy gasoline. You knowhow much you were paying on Sept. 10. If the price went up on Sept.11, buy from somebody else. That’s what I’m doing.

According to Secretary of State Eric Clark’s office, some realscam artists are preying on the generosity of Americans, too.

Internet users are being warned that “spam” solicitations havebeen sent out requesting money for the Red Cross or other relieforganizations. But the e-mails direct potential donors to privateWeb sites apparently designed to steal credit card numbers.

Clark also said that his office has received reports of asuspicious telephone solicitations in Mississippi asking for moneyto help firefighters and police officers in New York City.

“Such scam artists should stay out of our state,” Clark said. “Iwant to issue a clear warning that Mississippi won’t allow it.”

Be wary of any phone solicitations you get now.

Clark and the Better Business Bureau offered some tips fordonors to consider before responding to disaster appeals:

* Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion but short on whatthe charity will do to address the specific disaster.

* Do not give cash; always make contributions by check and makeyour check payable to the charity, not to the individual collectingthe donation.

* Ask questions. Be wary of their reluctance or inability toanswer questions. Ask for the charity’s full name and address.

* Don’t be fooled by names that look impressive or that closelyresemble the name of a well-known organization.

* Don’t succumb to pressure to give money on the spot or allow a”runner” to pick up a contribution; the charity that needs yourmoney today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.

* Ask how much of your gift will be used for the disastermentioned in the appeal, and how much would go towardadministrative and fund raising costs.

Consumers who feel they have been victimized should call theSecretary of State’s Office by calling 601-359-1633 or888-236-6167.

There are many, many worthwhile charities at work now, and somegood local folks are raising money, too. If you get a chance tohelp, please do so.

We’re all in this together.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602 or send e-mail to