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Police warning

Indiana State Police and Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick today issued a warning to use care in donating to victims of Hurricane Katrina to make sure the money or goods will help the intended persons.
‘As sheriff of Harrison County, my thoughts and prayers go out to those victims of Hurricane Katrina,’ Deatrick said. ‘As I review the information concerning this monumental disaster, I look for ways that our department can better prepare for the unimaginable disasters that could affect our community.
‘One of the unbelievable realities that occur during the recovery phase of any disaster is that people commit acts of fraud to take advantage of others who want to help the victims through cash, check or credit card donations.
‘These criminal acts most commonly occur over the phone, but can occur over the Internet or by mail,’ the sheriff said.
He encourages anyone who makes a donation to first verify that it is being made to a legitimate organization.
‘It is never advisable to give information over the phone, such as your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information,’ the sheriff said.
Deatrick stressed that he is not trying to discredit groups such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way and others ‘who are and have been doing a great job for many years.
‘I only want you to be aware of the bad things that occur during such times of tragedy.’
State police said before agreeing to donate any money, be sure to ask where the money goes.
‘Find out if the person to whom you are speaking takes a percentage, and if they do, how large a percentage,’ said ISP Sgt. Jerry Goodin in a written statement. ‘Ask what programs the organization has supported recently and where they are located.
‘If the solicitor comes door-to-door, ask for identification and written information about the charity. If the solicitor calls on the phone, ask for a brochure to be sent to your home.’
Goodin said legitimate charities should welcome questions. ‘They want people to know what they are doing for the community.’
Once a decision has been made to donate, write a check payable to the charity, not the fund-raiser, Goodin said. ‘Do not send cash and do not give a credit card number to anyone over the phone,’ he said.
To check out a charity organization or company, call the Better Business Bureau at 1-317-488-2222 or log on to its Web site, www.betterbusinessbureau.com.
For more information or assistance, contact the sheriff’s department at 738-2195. In case of emergency, dial 911.

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