ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - New Mexico is in the middle of one of the biggest disaster relief responses in state history, but now there's concern that donations to help are going to criminals.
The New Mexico Attorney General's Office put out a warning this week to watch out for phony disaster relief calls related to New Mexico's and Colorado’s recent flooding, but the Red Cross says it has already heard about the calls.
The phony calls come as the disaster response has taxed the agency tremendously.
“We are helping in more than 25 different areas and more calls [for help] are coming in,” said Rahim Balsara, Regional CEO of the New Mexico Red Cross.
Amidst the calls for help, Balsara says he’s worried that some people who are trying to give back are being taken advantage of.
“Some of our donors that know the Red Cross and know the people very well, we do get calls from them saying, ‘Have you been calling us for fundraising?’ " said Balsara.
The Red Cross says it never contacts people directly to ask for money.
“We never call people or make any solicitation calls or phone banks [for donations],” said Balsara.
They say it’s too hard to guess just how much money they're losing to fake charity calls but say right now, any dollar lost is a huge blow as requests for help have been numerous.
“Our volunteers have been working around the clock going on to our 12th day of response. We have more than 12 shelters open around the state,” said Balsara.
Cleaning supplies, blankets and basic need items are all going fast and this relief effort may be one of the state's longest and most demanding the Red Cross has ever dealt with in New Mexico.
“Flooding is very easy to forget when the sun comes out, but those who have been affected by flooding will be needing Red Cross assistance for weeks to come,” said Balsara.
The New Mexico Attorney General's Office says one of the best ways to figure out whether or not a charity is legit is to ask the caller if they're a paid fundraiser, who they work for and what percentage of the donation goes to their cause. If you don't get a clear answer, consider something else.
Those who suspect a fake charity is calling can contact the state Attorney General's Office.
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