NEWTOWN, Conn. – The family of Noah Pozner was mourning the 6-year-old, killed in the Newtown school massacre, when outrage compounded their sorrow.
Someone they didn’t know was soliciting donations in Noah’s memory, claiming that they would send any cards, packages and money collected to his parents and siblings. An official-looking website had been set up, with Noah’s name as the address, even including petitions on gun control.
Noah’s uncle, Alexis Haller, called on law enforcement authorities to seek out these despicable people.
These scammers, he said, are taking away from families and the spirits of dead kids.
It’s a problem as familiar as it is disturbing. Tragedy strikes – be it a natural disaster, a gunman’s rampage or a terrorist attack – and scam artists move in.
It happened after 9/11. It happened after Columbine. It happened after Hurricane Katrina. And after this summer’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.
Sometimes fraud takes the form of bogus charities asking for donations that never get sent to victims. Natural disasters bring another dimension: Scammers try to get government relief money they’re not eligible for.
Noah Pozner’s relatives found out about one bogus solicitation when a friend received an email asking for money for the family. Poorly punctuated, it gave details about Noah, his funeral and his family. It directed people to send donations to an address in the Bronx, one that the Pozners had never heard of.
It listed a New York City phone number to text with questions about how to donate. When a reporter texted that number Wednesday, a reply came advising the donation go to the United Way.
The Pozner family had the noahpozner.com website transferred to its ownership. Victoria Haller, Noah’s aunt, emailed the person who had originally registered the name. The person, who went by the name Jason Martin, wrote back that he’d meant to somehow honor Noah and help promote a safer gun culture. I had no ill intentions I assure you.
Alexis Haller said the experience should serve as a warning signal to other victims’ families. We urge people to watch out for these frauds on social media sites.
AlsoSales of armored backpacks on rise
Anxious parents are fueling sales of armored backpacks for children. At least three companies that make armored backpacks designed to shield children caught in shootings also are reporting a large spike in sales and interest.
The body armor inserts fit into the back panel of a child’s backpack, and sells for about $150 to $300, depending on the company.
The armor is designed to stop bullets from handguns, not assault rifles like the one used by the Connecticut shooter. The manufacturers and some parents say that while they don’t guarantee children won’t be killed, they could still be used as shields.