Scam alert over fake Grenfell Tower fundraisers

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Kind-hearted people wanting to help the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are being warned to beware of scammers.

Since the appalling blaze at the west London tower block, there has been an outpouring of sympathy. Well-wishers are offering food, clothing, accommodation and cash.

However, according to Get Safe Online, tragic events such as this can be a field day for scammers - and the public should watch out for unsolicited approaches by email, text, social media post, or by phone.

"As the smoke still drifts from the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower in London's North Kensington, we are warning you to remain vigilant for fraudulent messages from scammers, exploiting the pain and misery of the victims of this tragic fire," the organisation warns.

"They may be making bogus charity appeals for financial help for victims and their families, or otherwise direct you to fake news or image websites which, if visited, could infect your connected devices with malware."

See also: Scamwatch: Facebook charity fraud

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Some scams come in the form of emails, text messages or social media posts claiming to be from victims or their families, appealing for financial help.

Others are seemingly official messages claiming to represent charitable organisations working to provide relief for victims.

"Such unsolicited approaches should be regarded with extreme caution, however authentic they seem and however traumatic the situations they describe," says Get Safe Online. "Always research charities online - the Charity Commission website is a good place to begin."

Finally, some scams exploit a rather less pleasant impulse than charity: invitations to view upsetting or sensational footage or images of the blaze. If you do this, you're in danger of ending up on a fraudulent website designed to capture your confidential details for fraud or identity theft.

Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails, social media posts, instant messages, or texts says Get Safe Online.

And, it adds, "If you get a phone call appealing for charitable donations following the Grenfell Tower fire, recent terrorist atrocities, natural disasters or other crises, regard it as fraudulent and put the phone down."

If you do want to help, there are a number of genuine ways to do so:

The Grenfell Tower Fire Fund, set up by local councillor Eartha Pond

The Latimer Road Fire Estate Appeal, set up by a local Muslim group

A JustGiving page set up by local resident Karolina Hanusova

The Families of Grenfell Tower JustGiving page

Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.

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