The fire that occurred in the Cathedral of Notre Dame on April 15 and 16, 2019 was devastating to many around the world. Not only were Parisians effected, but also those who had visited the landmark location in the past.
The 856-year old cathedral was severely damaged when the fire broke out and scorched the building’s spire, which collapsed and destroyed the roof. Though the University of Notre Dame announced that it would give $100k to renovation efforts, the full repair project is far more expensive.
Enter, scammers! A well loved landmark needed repair has led to many well-intentioned people falling for scams! Learn what happened, how scammers are taking advantage of donations, and how to protect yourself!
The Cathedral Fire Incident
Did you hear a rumor that a few cigarette butts destroyed the remarkable Notre Dame? Several news stories suggested that might have happened in the case of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. What happened was a little different than rumors. The fire was structural, and the building’s roof and upper walls were destroyed.
Although nearly 400 firefighters worked to combat the flames as an extra 100 helped move artwork and precious items to safety, it was not enough. Lower than usual water pressure was a tool firefighter used to combat the flames and still save the artwork. However, the heat in the building prevented firefighters from doing more.
On April 16, firefighters explained that they saw no evidence this was a deliberate act. While some news publications had attributed the fire to smoking, a judicial police officer reported that it was most likely caused by a short circuit.
This is because surveillance footage showed fire initially rising from the spire’s base! Thankfully, the cathedral’s 13th century rose windows and pipe organs were spared. However, other valuable and well-loved religious relics and art were destroyed.
Notre Dame Donation Scams
The FTC has issued a stark warning about the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Since the fire was shocking to so many folks, there has been a significant emotional response worldwide. That energy and care are precisely what scammers thrive off of! Concern makes people vulnerable to trickery and at risk of being scammed.
Do not waiver from these tips! Each of the following steps should be taken.
Research the website, phone number, and organization(s). Look at the organization’s history and who runs it. Look at the rating/stars for the organization, etc. Also, search the words “scam” and “complaints” along with the name of the organization and those in charge. If you can see images of whoever leads the organization, search their pictures on Social Catfish to verify identity.
Ask Detailed Questions
Ask how your money will be used and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Foreign donations are usually not tax deductible. Beware if the organization you are speaking with says otherwise. The IRS has a tax-exempt organization search here:
Be Careful with Your Payment Method
To protect against scams, never pay someone over the phone with a credit card or bank information. Also, do not contribute by cash or money transfer. Legitimate organizations will have searchable webpages and a paper trail. Robocalls are also often a tool used by scammers.
Though crowdfunding sites have many uses, it will be too difficult to tell if your donation is going directly to the Cathedral of Notre Dame or not.
You can give to charities and still stay safe. The FTC has a charity tip page at: ftc.gov/charity
The next time you pick up your phone and receive a call or email from an organization which sounds helpful, understanding, and trustworthy do your research and never give out financial data by phone.
If you’re wondering if the organization you already gave to was a scam, go to Social Catfish. On Social Catfish, you can search the name, email address, and phone number of whoever called or contacted you. They may have used a spoofed email address, so be sure to look up their actual “reply to” address.
You can be safe, but it takes diligence. Share this article with friends to make a difference. Save your money to help real charities rebuild the Cathedral of Notre Dame!