Monday, November 07, 2005

The NCHRA Warns Hurricane Katrina Victims of Further Victimization


The National Coalition of Human Rights Activists warns Gulf Coast communities to be ware of confidence and fraud scams. As food and water shortages continue and as desperation increases in the hurricane disaster areas, victims must raise their awareness and defenses against those who pretend to come to offer them aid and assistance.

"We saw this after the World Trade Center towers fell; we saw this in the aftermath of last year's tsunami in Indonesia; we are seeing it now in the flooded and desperate streets of New Orleans this week---- hundreds of people rushing to the disaster site to further victimize the victims," said NCHRA President David Rice during a press conference in Gallup, New Mexico. "Disaster areas make a target-rich environment for criminals to prey upon the victims," Mr. Rice added.

Often the abusers come to disaster areas under the pretense of helping the victims; they present themselves as medical doctors offering exams; as sellers of miracle cures for injuries; as sellers of pills or worthless devices that will turn unpotable water drinkable; sellers of "detox" programs; or as religious workers or ministers who are there to offer comfort to the victims in exchange for donations or property.

"In far too many cases," said the NCHRA, "the victim ends up being swindled out of what little money and possessions they have left. Desperate people far too often abandon common sense and fall for scams that appear to solve their desperate situations. The victim becomes victimized over again."

For one example, at present there are approximately 60 fake "ministers" from the Scientology corporation rushing to the Hurricane Katrina disaster site to sell the victims books and to collect donations ostensibly for disaster relief. When the Scientology business sent nearly two dozen salespeople to the World Trade Center in 2001, and a dozen salespeople to Sri Lanka in 2004 [0] (under the pretense of being "ministers"), official relief workers forcefully ejected them from the disaster areas. In an internal Scientology email leaked to human rights activists, one Scientology salesperson even crowed with pride at the Scientology corporations efforts to PREVENT relief workers from helping victims of the disaster. [1]

"It is not just the Scientology corporation rushing to victimize the victims," said Mr. Rice. "Hundreds of people will falsely present themselves as collectors of donations for legitimate organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army; people should indeed give donations to these fine organizations, but those people need to make doubly sure that the people soliciting those donations are truly official representatives for those organizations."
Other possible fraudulent scams include people falsely representing themselves as government officials in the disaster areas, including utility workers and surveyors. The NCHRA urges everyone in hurricane disaster areas to check the credentials presented by people who claim to be working in official government and/or social relief capacities.
"Any victim of the disaster who is asked to buy a book or make a donation, in exchange for relief services or not, should think twice and thrice before surrendering their money," the NCHRA President added. "Valid relief efforts do not cost the victim anything; victims being sold 'The Way to Happiness' or 'Dianetics' books is a sure sign that something sinister is going on. Being sold miracle potions or devices that render dangerous water safe should also be seen as a red flag that something evil is going on."

and also