News World US Heartless scammers attempt to cash in on Texas school shooting
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Heartless scammers attempt to cash in on Texas school shooting

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US authorities have issued official warnings after heartless online scammers tried repeatedly to cash in on last week’s horrific Texas school shooting.

As the first of the 19 students slain by a teenager at Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde last week were buried on Tuesday (local time), it emerged that scammers were duping people keen to donate to the grieving families.

The children, all aged under 11, died with two of their teachers in Texas’ deadliest school shooting.

It has prompted outrage and renewed calls for gun control.

But, as much of the nation grieves and reacts to the horror, dozens of online fundraising campaigns have appeared on the internet, all asking for donations they claimed were for victims’ families.

Not all of them should be trusted, authorities have warned.

Ill intentions

The first of the pages popped up on global fundraising site GoFundMe within hours of news of the shooting.

They appealed for donations and referenced specific victims of the tragedy.

Texas Attorney-General Ken Paxton said charitable Texans, as well as those from further afield, should be wary of potential scams.

“Unfortunately, there are some individuals who may try to take advantage of tragedy to perpetrate scams,” he said in a statement, advising donors to be “aware and informed” and follow best practices to avoid scams.

GoFundMe responded by creating a centralised hub that helps potential donors to locate verified fundraisers.

The platform has also apparently removed several fundraisers.

“Immediately following the news, GoFundMe mobilised a crisis team and began monitoring the platform for fundraisers created to help individuals and families,” GoFundMe said in a statement.

“GoFundMe has a dedicated Trust & Safety team reviewing fundraisers related to this tragedy.”

But despite the efforts, some scams are still slipping through the cracks.

Social media users have shared screenshots of Twitter accounts and Facebook pages that appear to be posing as victims’ family members.

They share links to fundraising pages, or post details for American mobile wallets Venmo and Cash App.

Direct transfers through these services are far less secure, with users needing only to input a payee’s username to transfer funds.

Facebook posts seen by The New Daily disguised apparent scams using misleading names, such as ‘Tuition Assistance Fund’.

Other users shared warnings, saying they had been directly contacted by accounts impersonating the families of deceased children, asking for donations.

One would-be donor wrote about her interaction with an account claiming to be a woman called Jessica Lopez – the grandmother of one of the dead Uvalde children.

The user was asked to transfer money through Facebook or Cash App.

“I just wanted to warn everyone of this because I can’t believe anyone would even think of doing it,” the user wrote.

“I can only assume they found my profile because of how interactive I’ve been with the posts I’ve seen about the shooting.”

Mr Paxton warned people to never wire money or confirm financial or personal information upon making a donation.

They should also donate only “through legitimate charitable funding platforms like GoFundMe that have committed to banning fraudsters”, he said.

Final goodbyes

Elsewhere, heartbroken Uvalde families have started laying the victims to rest.

Private memorial services for two slain 10-year-old girls, Amerie Jo Garza and Maite Yuleana Rodriguez, were held on Tuesday (local time).

Funerals for the remaining victims of the Texas school shooting will happen in the next two weeks.

Maite was among the victims who will be buried in a custom casket, designed by a local company and commissioned by the Texas Funeral Directors Association.

Her coffin reportedly featured whales and dolphins – the honour student having expressed her dream of becoming a marine biologist.

Creator Trey Ganem said he hand-painted each coffin to reflect the passions and interests of the victims.

“There was TikTok, softball, horses, dinosaurs, hiking,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

A joint memorial service will be held on Wednesday for Irma Garcia, 48, one of the two teachers killed, and her husband, Jose Garcia, 50. He died of a heart attack two days after the shooting.

The couple, who were high school sweethearts, are survived by four children.

-with Reuters