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Watch out for Surfside charity scams and price gouging

A shrine is set up outside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Surfside on Monday near the collapsed building.
A shrine is set up outside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Surfside on Monday near the collapsed building. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

SURFSIDE, Fla. – An enormous outpouring of charity support has come in the days since Thursday’s condo collapse in Surfside, however, the state’s attorney general is warning residents about the threat of scams preying on people’s generosity.

“I have seen first-hand the remarkable and generous efforts of legitimate charities and individuals helping the families affected,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said. “No doubt, people want to come to the aid of their fellow Floridians struck by this catastrophe, but please be cautious of bad actors trying to take advantage of generous donors.”

Local 10 News has posted a page with information on legitimate charity and fundraiser initiatives.

The online fundraising platform GoFundMe has its own page with verified fundraisers to support those affected by the Champlain Towers South collapse.

The Better Business Bureau and Florida's attorney general are warning residents to make sure they know where donations are going if they intend to give to Surfside victims and their families.
The Better Business Bureau and Florida's attorney general are warning residents to make sure they know where donations are going if they intend to give to Surfside victims and their families.

Moody’s office offered the following tips Monday to avoid charity scams in the wake of a disaster:

  • Ensure the charity is registered and eligible to solicit in the state of Florida by visiting FDACS.gov/ConsumerServices and clicking Check-A-Charity.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org or Charity Navigator to determine whether a charity has any complaints against them before donating
  • Research how the charity uses donations
  • Refrain from providing banking information to unsolicited calls or emails on behalf of a charity
  • Carefully review the charity’s name before making a donation

If you see what looks like a charity scam, you can report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-966-7226 or visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.

Price gouging

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Monday that her office has received complaints of possible price gouging at hotels in the area of Surfside.

“Now that the Governor has declared a state of emergency, price gouging is a criminal offense. We are joining efforts with the Miami-Dade Police Department to combat any greedy individuals and businesses that may use unprecedented events like the Surfside tragedy to take advantage of our community’s fundamental needs by unnecessarily hiking prices to outrageous levels,” Fernandez Rundle said in a news release.

To report any suspected price gouging, you can email Hotline@miamisao.com. Complaints should include the business name, physical address, item(s) believed to be price gouged with photos and receipt(s) and contact information.

Residents may also call the State Attorney’s Hotline at 305-547-3300.


About the Author:

David Selig is the Digital Executive Producer at WPLG, overseeing Local10.com.