Scammers using fundraisers to guilt victims into handing over cash

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A warning to every business owner in town: Be careful when it comes to giving money to a good cause.

If you could help a family of a sheriff's department employee in need, you probably would. That's exactly what one guy is hoping for, but he has nothing to do with the sheriff's department.

"My switchboard patched him through thinking it was a personal call," said Jean Durden with Parkway Chevrolet.

As the owner of Parkway Chevrolet, Durden gets a lot of phone calls, but she says a recent caller did not want to buy a car.

"He said he was Bill Harris with the Harris County Sheriff's Office and he said they were trying to wrap up, before the weekend, a fundraiser," Durden said.

Durden says the caller told her 22 families were in need of $300 each and wanted Parkway to donate the cash.

"It is a lot of money and if I would not do part of it, what part would I do," she said.

Durden says she does not mind giving to charity, but this request seemed very strange so she did a little research before donating.

"My assistant called the Harris County Sheriff's Office and they said no, they did not have a Bill Harris working there anywhere in the department and also they did not have any kind of fundraiser going on," he said.

So Durden reported the the whole thing to the real Sheriff's Department.

"Don't just give your money to anyone," said Leah Naoplielo with the Houston Better Business Bureau.

Naoplielo says while the holidays are prime time for charity scams, they can still happen long after Christmas is gone.

"We want donors to be particularly cautious," she said.
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