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Cook Lions accepting flood relief donations

Beware of illegitimate donation scammers



COOK—The Cook Lions Club has announced they are providing ways for people to make monetary donations for flood relief in the wake of this week’s devastating flood in Cook.
The club has set up an account at North Star Credit Union to receive donations and checks payable to “Cook Lions Club” can be dropped off or mailed to: North Star Credit Union, 24 South River St., PO Box 1058, Cook MN 55723.
Be sure to write “Flood support” on the notation line on your check.
Those wanting to make a donation online can use the PayPal service, which requires signing up for an account. Once you have an account you will be able to send your donation to You can sign up for the service at
The Lions have also set up an account with Venmo to receive electronic donations. Once again, donors will need to have a Venmo account to use the service to donate. Users should direct their donation to @cookmnlions.
Yet another way to donate, although available to a limited number of people, is through the Benevity program sponsored by participating employers. Ask your employer if they participate in Benevity, and if so, they will be able to help you make a donation to the Lions Club through that platform.

Major donations
Two groups that have made major donations to the flood relief efforts that the Timberjay is aware of are the Cook Lions Club and the Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade.
At the outset of the disaster, the Lions Club reached out to its parent organization, Lions Clubs International, which through its foundation supports disaster relief efforts around the globe. Within hours, according to Cook Lions Club president Steve Kajala, $10,000 was on its way to the Cook club.
Meanwhile, last Saturday the Lake Vermilion Fire Brigade held a pork roast dinner and silent auction originally planned to raise funds for the brigade, but those plans changed in the wake of the flood. The brigade turned the event into a free community dinner for “our friends and neighbors.” Donations originally intended for the fundraiser were redirected to flood relief efforts. The brigade announced the results Tuesday on social media.
“A heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended and supported the pork roast on Saturday evening at LVFB Hall,” the post said. “We’re thrilled to announce that you raised $15,000 for the flood relief effort in Cook, with donations still coming in. The funds have been donated to the Cook Lions Club and Cook Fire Relief Association, who continue to provide much-needed support and resources to those affected by the flood. Your support not only showcases the strength and compassion of our community- it also makes a tangible difference in the lives of our neighbors. We’re deeply grateful.”
And two anonymous individuals offered to match donations to the relief fund in the amounts of $1,000 and $1,750.

Beware of donation scams

The Cook Lions Club is an organization with known local membership and a long and well-known history of benevolent service to Cook and the surrounding area. Donors can feel confident that their donations will be managed and distributed with care and thoughtfulness to assist those in need.

Club members were scheduled to make a caravan to surrounding communities on Monday to buy needed cleaning supplies and tools any other items useful is dealing with flooded buildings. The materials were to be available at the Cook Fire Hall for distribution by 10 a.m., Kajala said.

However, disasters such as the flood are also opportunities for scammers to use deceptive means to try to swindle money from well-intentioned donors eager to help. One such scam involving texted requests for gift cards using the name of a local church pastor has already been attempted.

There are a variety of donation scams that people could encounter, including:

• Fake Charities: Scammers create fake charities that sound legitimate or mimic the names of well-known organizations. They often use emotional appeals, depicting heart-wrenching stories and images to solicit donations.

• Phishing Emails and Websites: Fraudulent emails or websites claim to be affiliated with reputable charities. These may contain links to malicious websites designed to steal personal and financial information.

• Social Media and Crowdfunding Scams: Scammers set up fake social media pages or crowdfunding campaigns on sites such as GoFundMe claiming to raise funds for flood victims. They may use stolen images and fabricated stories to solicit donations. GoFundMe reports that 99.9 percent of their campaigns are legitimate fundraisers, which means that it’s highly unlikely you would encounter a fraudulent one, but scams have occurred on the platform. GoFundMe has an active team of safety reviewers and suspends campaigns they find to be suspicious.

• Phone Solicitations: Scammers make unsolicited phone calls or texts posing as representatives of legitimate charities. They pressure individuals into making immediate donations over the phone, often requesting payment via credit card or gift cards.
Scammers have also upped their game by turning to artificial intelligence to craft and target their appeals, even using artificially generated “customer service” chatbots that sound and interact like humans to automate their scamming process.

How to Guard Against Donation Scams

Various online sources offer the following guidance on how to stay safe from fundraising scams:

• Research the Charity: If you are contacted by someone claiming to be with a charitable organization, take time to verify the legitimacy of the organization by consulting others or using an online service such as Charity Navigator.

• Be Cautious of Unsolicited Requests: Be wary of unsolicited donation requests, especially from unfamiliar organizations. Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unsolicited emails.

• Use Secure Payment Methods: Donate using credit cards or checks. Avoid cash, wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency. If making an online donation on a charity’s website, make sure it is secure before entering payment information. Look for “https” in the URL and a padlock symbol.

• Check for Scams Online: Search for the charity’s name along with keywords like “scam” or “fraud” to see if any complaints have been filed. Review comments and reviews on social media and charity watchdog sites.

• Be Skeptical of High-Pressure Tactics: Legitimate charities will not pressure you to donate immediately. Take your time to research and ensure your donation is going to a genuine cause.

• Verify Crowdfunding Campaigns: If donating through crowdfunding platforms, make sure you’re confident of the legitimacy of the campaign. On GoFundMe, you can contact the organizer of a campaign through the provided contact button for additional verification if you want more information about the campaign. Look for direct connections to the community or endorsement by reputable individuals or organizations, such as those you know personally who have shared the campaign on their social media accounts.

• Report Suspected Scams: If you encounter a suspicious charity, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at Also inform the Minnesota Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau.