Official warns of fundraising scams after Idaho shooting

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Natalie Behring

A police officer walks out of Rigby Middle School following a shooting there earlier Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Rigby, Idaho. Authorities said that two students and a custodian were injured, and a female student has been taken into custody.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is warning residents to be wary of scams by people claiming to raise money for the victims of a school shooting in eastern Idaho.

Two students and the school custodian were shot during the May 6 attack at Rigby Middle School, and all sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The Jefferson County prosecuting attorney’s office says a 6th-grade girl has been charged in connection with the incident but her name and details of the charges have not been released. Juvenile court proceedings are sealed in Idaho.

In a statement Thursday, Wasden said victims and their families should also be cautious if they receive solicitations about filing lawsuits or joining potential class action cases, and everyone should be careful about possible scam fundraisers.

“Unfortunately, some people take advantage of tragedies to exploit victims’ pain and capitalize on the public’s generosity,” Wasden said. “I encourage individuals to file a complaint with my office if they become aware of suspicious fundraising attempts or misleading legal solicitations.”

Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLange said the office hasn’t received any confirmed reports that scammers are trying to exploit the shooting, though some in the community have called to report “rumblings” of potential scams.

He said phony fundraisers and other bad behavior elsewhere have involved school shootings.

Wasden said shootings nationwide have prompted class action lawsuits, and victims and families may be pressured into signing legal representation contacts within days of an attack.

The Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers says targeted in-person, telephone or real-time electronic communications with potential clients can be abusive, and attorneys aren’t allowed to solicit professional employment using those methods unless they already have a relationship with the person being solicited or the other person is also a lawyer. Written solicitations have to be labeled as advertising material.

Wasden also said people who want to donate money to those affected by the shooting should research the fundraising campaign first to make sure it’s legitimate.