Two Houston brothers who set up a fraudulent website following the Katrina disaster will each serve more than eight years in jail for their crimes. The federal government is cracking down on scammers such as the Stevens brothers, according to the Nonprofit Times:
Two Houston brothers each were sentenced last month to more than eight years for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft as a result of fraudulently operating a Web site that claimed to raise money on behalf of the Salvation Army for Hurricane Katrina victims. The fraudulent Web site, prosecutors said, collected more than $48,000 before anyone caught on.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Steven Stephens, 24, to serve a total of 111 months. Bartholomew Stephens, 27, will serve a total of 105 months. A jury convicted the pair after a four-day trial in June.
The Stephens case is just one example of the more than 2,400 Katrina relief Web sites believed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to be fraudulent.
More recently, as Southern California burned this past October criminals began setting up bogus Web sites and soliciting donations. According to the FBI, in the days following the California wildfires fraudsters flooded the Internet with fake charity sites.
Technology has certainly advanced fund development for nonprofits. Unfortunately, it continues to advance fraud and other criminal activity as well. It isn’t possible to anticipate each and every scam before it happens. However, being aware of these trends and keeping a watchful eye out for such scams can help.
Having policies and procedures in place regarding online giving and your organization’s web presence activities will help. Making sure that your domain name doesn’t expire will prevent scammers from picking it up and using it against you.
For more information, go to protectyour.org.