NY, BBB warns against Ebola scams and solicitations

Registered nurse Keene Roadman, dressed in personal protective equipment, and registered nurse Fred Serafin, demonstrates the proper disposal of the personal protective equipment, after the simulated treatment of a Ebola patient, to doctors and nurses who are part of the core care team that would treat Ebola patients, during a training class at the Rush University Medical Center, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP/WAVY) — New York’s attorney general along with the Better Business Bureau are warning consumers about scammers preying on Ebola fears with fundraising scams claiming to benefit victims and dubious offers of so-called preparedness kits that claim to contain preventive medicines.

The BBB says a fundraising page on GoFundMe was created on Wednesday to raise donations for Amber Joy Vinson, the nurse who traveled from Dallas to Cleveland and is currently being treated in Atlanta for Ebola. The site may behave been the work of a well-intentioned individual, but members of Vinson’s family tell BBB they did not authorize the effort. Although that page has since been shut down, there are more than 100 GoFundMe pages raising money for various Ebola campaigns.

Several BBBs have also reported on phone solicitation from an organization supposedly raising money to help with Ebola. When pressed, the caller says he is from a famous charity’s chapter in the Bronx, New York. BBB Metro New York confirmed that no such branch exists and that the solicitation is likely a scam.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says there is no approved vaccine. He says scammers are “shamefully exploiting” heightened concerns since a few cases have been documented in the U.S. following an outbreak earlier this year in Africa.

BBB warns donors to carefully research any charitable efforts:

  • Check out charities at give.org, the charity reporting arm of BBB.
  • Confirm that the group is actually a charity; charitable organizations  that have received tax-exempt status provide more opportunities for verification.
  • Give to individuals you know. It is safest to give to those individuals you personally know who are contacting you to support their specific project.
  • Projects that share updates provide greater transparency. Updates from a project’s organizers help to ensure they’re being honest about the uses of raised money.
  • Don’t assume your donation or gift is tax deductible. If you are funding a project run by an individual instead of a charity, the funding you provide may not be deductible as a charitable gift for federal income tax purposes.
  • Be especially careful after a disaster or tragedy. Con artists will strike while the emotional iron is hot.
  • Read the fine print. There could be credit card fees and administrative costs associated with donating.
  • Specialized crowdfunding sites may be more adept. A site that allows any type of crowdfunding may result in more challenging oversight hurdles.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says Ebola isn’t contagious until symptoms appear and isn’t spread through the air. The CDC says people get it from direct contact with a sick person’s bodily fluids.

Symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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