Avoiding Fraudulent Memorial Funds

RENO, NV - As four families struggle to put their lives back together, and students try to understand why one of their classmates opened fire in the school yard Monday, a lot of people throughout the community are looking for way to help.

One common way strangers help each other during times of tragedy is through a memorial fund.

"There are people all over the place who have huge hearts and want to make a difference," Chris Askin, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, said. "So when a family is hurt and people are hurting badly now, you want to reach out and help."

Which is what several people and businesses have started to do in the wake of the deadly Sparks Middle School shooting.

Car washes, ticket raffles, even reports of a charity out of Florida have all surfaced online.

But Askin says, while he doesn't want to discourage those efforts, they have one flaw.

"A lack of transparency. An honest person, if they receive a $180 in gifts in a jar on a counter would bring that to somebody where it can be used. But there have been some situations where there's been egregious use of charitable dollars for personal use."

Like in 2012, when someone set up a false Pay Pal account after two officers were killed in the line of duty in Kansas.

The good news is there are ways to make sure the money you give is going to the right place.

"One is donate to a charity," Askin said. "Charities have to file tax returns and receipt gifts. If you are giving through an individual or community fund raising effort, just make sure you know the people and really trust the people you're giving through."

Askin says he know of at least three possibly fraudulent funds set up already to help the Sparks shooting victims.

He says in this case, be wary of fundraisers asking for donations of any kind. After a tragedy like this, Askin said, money should be the only thing collected.

His organization is working with the Washoe County School District to manage a fund called the SMS Compassion Fund. All the money will be used to help all victims and their families start the recovery process.

To contribute to the SMS Compassion fund:

Donate online at nevadafund.org;

Call the Community Foundation of Western Nevada at 775-333-5499;

Mail a check to the SMS Compassion Fund at CFWN to: 1885 S. Arlington Ave., Suite 103 Reno, NV 89509. Please reference SMS Compassion Fund.