PHOENIX, AZ — After a tragedy, helping is instinctual in most of us and there's an overwhelming sense of immediacy to do it.
ABC15 recently held a phone bank after Phoenix Police officer Paul Rutherford died in the line of duty.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association organized a BBQ fundraiser for his family. But if anyone ever calls you claiming to be from PLEA and asking for money, you should be highly suspicious.
"The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association will never solicit anything by phone," said Britt London, president of PLEA.
Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission shut down and fined two so-called charities in Missouri and Florida; The Disabled Police and Sheriff's foundation and American Veterans Foundation.
Shockingly, the agency found almost none of the money raised went to victims. Instead it was used for fundraising, management, and expenses.
"We know people are receiving phone calls from people saying they're a legitimate charity with a police organization asking for donations that could help officers who have been wounded while they're on duty," said Katie Conner, spokesperson with the Arizona Attorney Generals Office.
It's unknown if the recent calls really are from legitimate charities, but historically Conner said, they've seen scammers prey on emotions by exploiting tragedies.
"It's absolutely disgusting that after tragedies like losing an officer or a natural disaster, all of a sudden you'll see all of these charities pop up," she said. "You want to make sure your donation is actually going to help someone and not just going to line the pockets of someone else."
To London, public safety-related scams are personal. "I liken it to stealing the muscular dystrophy bucket off the counter at the 7-eleven," he said. "It's just as bad."
To verify a charity, the Attorney General recommends you look up the charity's report and ratings online.
You can also ask the caller for a tax ID number. Never agree to give over the phone, until that research is done.