JESSIEVILLE, Ark. — Two families in a small Central Arkansas community are suffering tragic losses just a few weeks apart and now both are victims of scam artists.
It started when 15-year-old Trevor Christman died in an accident at his Fountain Lake house. Last month his family made a Facebook fundraiser to cover funeral costs, but someone tried scamming people who gave to that. They made a Facebook account pretending to be Trevor’s aunt then messaged people who donated to the legitimate fundraiser, and asked them to give again by sending e-gift cards.
Just a few weeks later the same scam is back, this time targeting Pastor Jay Davis’ family who lost their Jessieville home in a fire.
“It’s heartless, it’s just heartless,” said Davis. “We lost everything. You never realize how much of yourself you put on the nightstand every night until it’s gone.”
The pastor along with his wife, 16-year-old son , and elderly mother were sleeping when the fire started and quickly spread through their home.
“The only life that was lost in it was our family dog.”
A relative made a Facebook fundraiser to help the family rebuild. In just a couple days it raised more than $3,000, but that generosity also attracted a scammer.
The scam used a fake profile to send messages asking for gift cards claiming it was all for the family. The messages were identical to ones sent to people who donated to Trevor’s funeral last month.
“These people have played on the generosity of a great community that gave of themselves,” Davis added. “People began to question whether the money was actually being used and coming to us.”
For the Davis family the damage is already done. The scam cast enough doubt to stop donations, but the Pastor refuses to let everything that happened waiver his faith.
“We still have God, we still have our life, and we still have an opportunity,” he said.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says her office will investigate these scams. She sent the following statement along with tips.
“It is a shame that when tragedy strikes, so do con artists. While my office will investigate cases of fraud and deception, it is most important to prevent these criminals from striking well-intentioned victims.”
- Always do your research to confirm the validity of a fundraiser
- Watch out for similar but different organization names as some con artists will use names similar to those of existing, reputable nonprofits or people in order to trick consumers
- On crowdfunding sites, determine any relation the organizer has to the recipient and who is in control of the withdrawals
- Never send cash or gift cards. Make check or credit card payments for increased security
- Report the page to the social media platform to be removed and notify local law enforcement