NEWS

Telephone scammers target Sicamous fire widow

01/05/2012 11:13 EST | Updated 03/06/2012 05:12 EST

Scammers appear to be targeting the generosity of those seeking to help a woman from Sicamous, B.C., who lost her family in a recent house fire.

Kara Wagner's fiancé and their two children were killed when their home was destroyed by a fire on Sunday, leaving her with nothing but the clothes she was wearing.

Almost immediately, the community began organizing fundraising efforts on Facebook to help her. But now Wagner is being re-victimized by a scam, according to her friends.

Several people in the community have reported receiving automated calls asking for donations for Kara Wagner in what appears to be a fraudulent plan to steal credit card numbers from unsuspecting victims.

"The automated message said it was collecting donations for Kara Wagner, and to press pound to put in the amount you'd like to donate," Wagner's close friend, Brianna LaRoy, told CBC News.

Those who received the calls say the caller blocked their identity.

LaRoy says she is not aware of anyone who has been tricked but she is worried it could dissuade people from donating to the legitimate fundraising effort, which she is co-ordinating. So far, nearly $8,500 has been collected for Wagner through Facebook.

"I just want to make sure that all the donations that are raised for Kara and her family are going to Kara and her family."

She says people should visit the Support Kara Wagner page on Facebook to get instructions on how to donate.

Difficult investigation

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk confirmed police are investigating the scam, but said it could be difficult to track down the offenders.

"This could be happening from a location abroad or overseas, and in this day and age ... it permits them in a very blackhearted and ruthless nature to look at these types of incidents and tragedies and hook on to them for fraudulent financial gain," he said.

Moskaluk said several people called police to complain about the scam but he was not aware of anyone who had actually fallen victim to it.

"Please verify as to who you are dealing with, charitable organizations always encourage you [to] consider donating after you are well informed as to who they are."

"Legitimate charitable societies, big or small, do not operate by automated phone soliciting. Do not give out your personal banking or credit card information and donation in this manner," he said.

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