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WARNING: Beware of hurricane relief scams

WARNING: Beware of hurricane relief scams

WARNING: Beware of hurricane relief scams
Photo Credit: None
Brandon Trionfo, right, and Alex Broz help push a neighbors car out of a flooded street in Gainesville, Fla., after Hurricane Irma hit the area Monday Sept. 11, 2017. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

WARNING: Beware of hurricane relief scams

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is warning consumers to be on the lookout for scams.

“Seeing or hearing about the devastation caused by a natural disaster evokes our sympathies and our desire to help those affected,” Carr’s office wrote in a news release Monday night. “Unfortunately, scammers realize this and do not hesitate to take advantage of people’s heightened emotions. They may pose as reputable charities soliciting donations and target consumers through unsolicited emails, telemarketing calls or by knocking on their doors. They often create legitimate-looking websites that have similar names as actual charities, sometimes even using the actual logo of a reputable relief organization.”

Below is a list of recommendations to make sure you are donating to a legitimate charity:

  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and avoid clicking on any links they contain. Only open attachments from senders you know and trust.
  • Don’t give out money over the phone unless you have initiated the call and are confident that the charity is legitimate.
  • You can research a charity by going to or
  • Look up the actual website of the charity you want to donate to rather than trusting a link from an email or pop-up ad.
  • Note that legitimate charities’ websites typically end in .org, not .com.
  • Be cautious of crowdfunding sites. Since some of them do little to vet people who post for assistance after a disaster, be extra diligent about donating this way. The Better Business Bureau warns that some individuals posting for donations may not have any official connection to a charitable organization or could be using names and photos of victims without their families’ permission.

Home Repair Fraud

Following a weather-related emergency, scammers often show up offering to help with tree removal and home repair work.

The attorney general’s office advises consumers to do business with local firms that are well-established and whose references can be checked.

“Do not give individuals money upfront based upon the promise that they will be back to do the work,” the office said.

More suggestions of things to do before hiring someone to do home repairs:

  • Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for referrals.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the business.
  • Make sure that general contractors, electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning contractors are licensed. You can verify this on the secretary of state’s website. Note that certain specialty occupations such as roofers, painters, drywall contractors and repair handymen are not required to be licensed by the state.
  • Get written bids from several contractors. Be skeptical if the bid is too low. Cheaper is not necessarily better. Ask for references and check them out.
  • Always insist on a written contract for work to be performed, with all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing.
  • Ask to see proof of insurance -- personal liability, workers’ compensation and property damage.
  • Never pay for the entire project before the work begins. A small payment may be due upfront, but don’t pay in full until the project has been completed to your satisfaction.
  • Paying with a credit card instead of cash will give you more protections against fraud.


Scammers may also try to steal your money by posing as representatives from insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Association or law enforcement agencies.

Don’t give out personal or financial information to someone you don’t know.

Remember that the services offered by FEMA and SBA are free, so if a “representative” asks you for payment, it’s a scam.

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  • Northgate High School and Canongate Elementary School in Coweta County were placed on lockdown after school officials said a person with a gun was seen nearby. According to Coweta County School, the school was notified by law enforcement officials that there was somebody walking down Fischer Road in Newnan with a gun Tuesday.  The road is adjacent to the school.  The schools were placed on Code Red Alert, but later downgraded to Code Yellow. Cannongate Elementary was also put on Code Yellow lockdown around 11:20 a.m. Both schools stayed in a Code Yellow lockdown as a precaution until they went home.   Dean Jackson with Coweta County Schools said parents were notified by email, text and letter.  Dean said that some parents came and checked their kids out of school.   The suspect has not yet been caught, officials said.  Northgate High School and Canongate Elementary School are continuing on heightened security at this time, as a precaution only, while law enforcement investigates an incident in northeastern Coweta. Northgate HS moved to a code yellow status at approximately 12:50 p.m.,— Coweta Schools (@CowetaSchools) May 22, 2018 NewsChopper 2 was over the scene. We're working to get updates for Channel 2 Action News starting at 4 p.m. TRENDING STORIES: Patient says she woke up from surgery in hotel room with sandwich in hand 'American Idol' reveals its 2 finalists are dating before announcing winner 2 victims of cougar attack identified, friends grieving death of avid cyclist  
  • Rain and a few storms could put a damper on your Memorial Day plans. Stay weather aware this week with in-depth coverage from Kirk Mellish.
  • The Florida Department of Health has a warning for Florida residents and tourists about a deadly strain of flesh-eating bacteria. Federal health officials have said Vibrio vulnificus infections have increased each year since 2000. As scary as that sounds, though, the likelihood of contracting the bacterium is still pretty small. “You are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to (a) restaurant than from Vibrio,” says University of Florida microbiology professor Paul Gulig. Here are five things to know about flesh-eating bacteria in Florida: 1. It’s the fish, not the water – Most people who die from the bacteria contracted it from eating raw or under-cooked seafood, especially shellfish, like oysters, rather than from swimming in the Gulf. Swimming in salt water with an open wound increases your chances of getting it, but that shouldn’t keep the vast majority of people from getting in the water. 2. Now is the time to be vigilant – Peak season for Vibrio is during the warmer months, between May and October. The warm weather breeds the bacteria, and people are more likely to be swimming in the water and consuming seafood while on vacation or enjoying the scenery.  3. It’s extremely rare, and extremely deadly – According to the CDC, in 2014 there were about 90 total infections of Vibrio in the U.S., including 35 deaths. By comparison, the flu kills between 3,300 and 49,000 people every year. That being said, the bacteria is life-threatening. Vibrio kills one in three people who become infected. 4. It’s not really flesh-eating, it just looks that way – The only bacteria that are officially classified as “flesh eating” belong to the streptococcus A family. Vibrio is called “flesh eating” because it invades the blood stream and causes skin lesions that are similar to streptoccus A.  5. Your risk is pretty low, even if you’re sick – Most people who are truly vulnerable to Vibrio already have a weakened immune system, and suffer from other ailments, like chronic liver disease. There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission. Just to be safe, though, health officials say you should clean any open wounds after you’ve gone swimming in the ocean. 
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  • A mentally disabled man walked free Tuesday after 20 years in prison for a killing his attorneys say he didn't commit, under a plea agreement that blames him for obstructing justice by falsely confessing to the crime. In exchange for his freedom, Corey Williams accepted a deal that short-circuits a potential U.S. Supreme Court review and requires him to drop all claims against the state of Louisiana, which initially sentenced him to death. 'Moments ago, I had the honor of walking Corey Williams out of prison,' attorney Amir Ali said in a tweet Tuesday morning. 'He spent the last 20 years there, after being wrongfully convicted as a 16 year old child.' Police found Williams hiding under a sheet on a couch at his grandmother's house after Jarvis Griffin was killed after delivering a pizza to another house in 1998. Williams initially denied killing Griffin, but changed his story after police questioned him through the night. 'His confession was brief, devoid of corroborating details,' his lawyers wrote in their March 2 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. 'Having just assumed responsibility for a homicide, Corey told the officers, 'I'm tired. I'm ready to go home and lay down.'' Defense attorneys said there wasn't any physical evidence linking Williams to the killing, and accused prosecutors of withholding 'staggering' evidence of innocence, in part by sharing only summaries of evidence involving other suspects. As it turned out, witnesses saw several older men steal money and pizza from Griffin, and saw Williams running from the house alone with nothing in his hands after the shooting, according to his lawyers. One of the older men, Chris Moore, was the only witness who identified Williams as the shooter. Fingerprints found on the murder weapon belonged to one of the other older men, and the victim's blood was found on clothing worn by a third older man, according to Williams' lawyers. Williams' lawyers said the prosecutors' summaries were falsified. This was one of the reasons cited by a group of 44 former prosecutors and Justice Department officials, including former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in a legal brief filed recently urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The plea 'puts an end to Corey Williams' efforts to get the United States Supreme Court to reverse his conviction,' wrote John Andrew Prime, spokesman for Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart Sr., in a news release emailed Tuesday. Williams signed his plea bargain in inch-high printing with big circles over the i's. His lawyers say that before the shooting, Williams was hospitalized for extreme lead poisoning, still sucked his thumb and frequently urinated on himself. His disabilities were cited by a district court judge in overturning his death sentence in 2004. Williams also pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter. In the agreement, he admits being present when Griffin was killed, that he aided and abetted the shooting, and illegally possessed a stolen firearm. He also agreed that he obstructed justice by removing evidence from the crime scene, and that he 'provided a false inculpatory statement to police.' Williams, now 36, also agreed not to raise any legal claims or seek compensation from the state or anyone else in a long list of people and agencies, including any former district attorney. Because of that, his lawyers hope to raise $10,000 to help him get a new start on life. 'Given the prospect of years more time in prison fighting his conviction, and the uncertainty of justice in the courts, ... Corey pled guilty to lesser offenses in an agreement that allowed him to walk out of prison,' his lawyers wrote on a crowdfunding site. State District Court Judge Katherine Dorroh vacated Williams' murder conviction and sentenced him to 20 years for manslaughter, with credit for time served. Prime said the judge also suspended a seven-year sentence for obstructing justice, putting Williams on supervised probation for three years.
  • The NFL has passed a new rule for this season that says any player who initiates contact with his helmets is subject to ejection after an in-game video review that will be decided in New York. Al Riveron, the league's head of officiating, said a foul can be called regardless of where on the body — not just the head or neck area — that one player hits another with his helmet. The rule is not position-specific, so offensive players will be subject to the same criteria as defensive players. 'This is about eliminating unnecessary use of the helmet,' Riveron said Tuesday at the NFL spring meetings. If a player is ejected, Riveron and his staff in New York will use network camera angles to determine if the ejection is necessary. He promised that games will not become 'an ejection fest' every week. 'Immediately when I learn in New York that there's an ejection, I will ask the network to give me everything you've got,' Riveron said. 'I will take a look at it, I will rule on it and I will say yes, he's ejected, (or) no, leave him in the game. 'Play will stop, and we will expedite it. That's why we won't have the referee come over and we're not going to get the replay official involved,' Riveron said. 'The only way the replay official will be involved is he will call it and immediately tell the command center, we have an ejection on 'No. 22 White.'' Atlanta Falcons CEO Rich McKay, the head of the league's competition committee, said the league had conference calls and a webinar with every coaching staff in the league last week to tell them to begin teaching a new, safer technique. McKay said the rule passed after the league looked at tens of thousands of examples on film to determine how to reduce concussions. Contact that's made by leading with the helmet no longer has a place in the NFL. 'We have always learned don't put your neck at risk and everything else,' he said. 'Now we've taken it a step further and said that we need to teach it out of the game and put a rule in and get it out of the game.' The rule applies to linemen, too. They can no longer lower their helmets to initiate contact. 'It's a culture change, and it's something that we take full responsibility' for, Riveron said. 'Prior to training camp we will have position-specific videos done by head coaches such as offensive line play, defensive line play, defensive backs, linebackers, special teams, runners. Why? Because this rule is all-inclusive for all players in all parts of the field.' ___ For more AP NFL coverage: and