Scams follow in Sandy's wake

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"The Department of Justice and the FBI remind the public to apply a critical eye and do due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of hurricane victims,” the joint statement announced. “Solicitations can originate as emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods.”

Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast earlier this week, killing dozens of people and leaving millions without power.  Many people are homeless, largely in the New Jersey and New York region.

Law enforcement officials said people who are suspicious of solicitations should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s 24-hour hotline at (877) 623-3423.

They also advised people not to respond to any unsolicited emails because they may contain computer viruses. People should also be wary of criminals pretending to be victims or officials asking for donations via email and social networking sites.

The DOJ and FBI also warned of fraudulent organizations that use names similar to those of reputable charities. They also cautioned people to avoid making cash donations and said the safest donation method was through debit cards, credit cards or checks.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud was established after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to investigate and prosecute disaster-relief scams and it serves as a central clearinghouse for all fraud schemes.

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