BEWARE OF SCAMMERS WHEN DONATING TO HELP VICTIMS OF THE UKRAINIAN WAR

Mon Mar 14 2022 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

THE NEWS REPORTS are heart wrenching: families and children bombed and fleeing in terror while the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushes closer to the nation's capital.

“We all want to help the victims of this senseless war," said Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari. "But before we send a donation, it is important to know that the money will reach those who need it most."

Like any other disaster, manmade or natural, the war in Ukraine is attracting scammers hoping to pray on the generosity of others.

Fortunately, just a little research will help tell the difference between a legitimate charity and a potential swindle, he said.

"First, make sure the charity you choose is established and has the ability to actually provide aid to Ukrainian citizens and refugees," Vicari said.

Well-known organizations such as the Salvation Army, The Red Cross, World Vision and UNICEF already have the logistics in place to help the war victims.

Local churches and other faith-based organizations are also rallying to aid the war refugees.
While some churches had at first accepted materials such as nonperishable food items, clothing, diapers and blankets, many are now requesting only monetary donations.

For instance, St. Stephen Ukrainian Catholic Church in Toms River is accepting checks and PayPal donations.

"There is a great cost in transporting materials into the war zone," Vicari said. "Sending money is the best option to ensure the people who need help receive it as quickly as possible."

But before writing that check or clicking that PayPal link, Vicari warned would-be donors to make sure they are not falling for a scam.

"Beware of phone calls or emails asking for money," he said. "Many of our seniors are especially vulnerable to scam artists who prey on elderly residents."

Vicari, who is chairman of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs, cautioned residents not to click on unsolicited emails or provide personal or banking information online. Robocalls asking for money should also be ignored, he said.

"A common practice among scammers is to ask an unsuspecting donor to purchase gift cards to aid a charity," Vicari said. "If you are asked to buy gift cards, it's probably a scam."

Vicari said that the threat of scammers in the wake of the Ukrainian war has become so prevalent that the FBI has issued a warning about the problem.

John P. Kelly, director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners, said a list of reputable charities is now available on the county's website www.co.ocean.nj.us.

"We encourage anyone who can make a donation to do so," Kelly said. "The number of innocent victims from this war is growing every day. The victims and refugees need our help."