Scammers and price gougers are trying to make money from the tragedy
Scammers are trying to make a buck off of the tragic collapse of the Champlain Tower South in Miami by duping well-intentioned people hoping to donate funds to the rescue and recovery effort.
In the days since the tower collapsed and left almost 150 people unaccounted for, fundraising efforts to help the families and survivors cropped up across the internet.
One of those sites, a legitimate fundraising site called supportsurfside.org, has already raised close to $2m, but other predatory groups are hoping to siphon some donations for themselves.
Charles Cyrille, the director of the Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management, revealed the scammers had become a problem during a press briefing on Wednesday.
“There have, unfortunately, been some people trying to take advantage with fraudulent GoFundMe accounts,” he said.
He advised would-be donors to ensure the individuals or organisations they’re giving money to are legitimate and directed people to check with www.miamidade.gov/emergency to find legitimate fundraising organisations.
GoFundMe has also started cracking down on fraudulent fundraisers by verifying legitimate campaigns associated with the collapse.
In addition to donation scamming, hotel owners in the surrounding region have started price gouging as victims’ families and survivors of the collapse seek places to stay during the rescue and recovery effort.
Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, Miami-Dade county’s state attorney, said she has established a hotline for reporting price gouging, and said that it was a criminal offence since the state has called a state of emergency.
“We are joining with the Miami-Dade Police Department to combat any greedy individuals and businesses that may use unprecedented events like the Surfside tragedy to take advantage of our community’s fundamental needs by unnecessarily hiking prices to outrageous levels,” she said.
There are now 16 confirmed deaths caused by the collapse, with 147 people still missing.
Recovery efforts continue at the site.
Though no official reason for the collapse has been determined, numerous reports have surfaced that suggest there was massive structural damage at the condos, which the company that owns the building said it was slated to address.
A TikTok video taken just before the building collapsed showed water gushing into the building’s basement.
Two days prior to the collapse, a pool contractor took photos of structural damage in the building’s garage.
A letter written by the president of an apartment block owner’s association in the condos also sent a letter to the building’s management complaining that structural damage was worsening in the building.