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Boston Marathon bombings: How to avoid charity scams

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A private service was held Tuesday to remember 8-year-old Richard Martin, the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings. But while the nation was mourning, some were using the terrible tragedy to try to scam people using the picture of another child.

The Joe Cassella Foundation 5K, which raises money for cancer patients, will be held in one month, but how the race got connected with a charity scam leaves its organizer feeling one way.

“It was awful. I just think it was disgusting,” says Vivi Cassella.

Cassella is talking about a photo that has been forwarded around the internet hundreds of thousands of times and ties her fundraiser 5K and an innocent little girl to a scam related to the Boston bombings.

“This was taking attention away from the ones that were really suffering,” she says.

Shortly after the bombings Monday, a photo appeared on the Twitter account of “Hope For Boston,” attached to a message that the girl pictured was an 8-year-old  killed while running the Boston Marathon for children from Sandy Hook. As we now know, the 8-year-old killed was Martin Richard. The photo was actually from an article for the Langley High School Paper written last year about the Joe Casella 5K. The young girl was a participant. 

“We felt sorry for the parents of the little girl,” Cassella says.

Word spread quickly on Twitter that the photo was a fake and “Hope For Boston” was shut down before the scam moved forward.

“We’re heartfelt and we want to do something to help the victims and it could have been us,” David Moore says.

Moore is a consultant for non-profits in the business of fundraising. He realizes some people are reluctant to give because of scams, but should give when the can, carefully.

“Take a deep breath, take a second. Just verify the group is real,” Moore says.

Moore recommends checking websites like Charity Navigator and Guidestar to verify charities. 

Cassella says she and others never found out who was behind the fake charity from last week.

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