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Help Arizona Wildfire Victims Right Here (Just Don't Tell AG Tom Horne)

If you're looking to help the victims of the wildfires currently raging in eastern Arizona, please send a personal check made out to the "Phoenix New Times editorial staff" to the New Times building at 1201 East Jefferson Street in Phoenix, 85034. Every little bit helps, and we'll definitely be sure to use the cash to throw an awesome party get the money to those in need.

Just don't tell Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who issued a warning this morning against people who are exploiting fire victims to scam cash from people who want to help out.

"Disasters such as the Wallow Fire often bring out the very best in people who work cooperatively to help each other. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true as scam artists and frauds use the tragedy to exploit vulnerable victims or con generous people into giving to fraudulent charities," Horne says.

Horne's issued the following tips for those who want to donate to the victims of the disastrous blaze -- but don't want to end up funding a party for underpaid staffers of an alternative weekly newspaper.

See Horne's tips below.

* If you have insurance, contact your insurance company first and file your claim. Your insurance company's adjuster will provide an estimate.
* Whether you are insured or not, obtain at least two estimates on work in writing before choosing a contractor to repair your home or remove debris.
* Never enter into or sign a contract while reviewing it quickly.
* Don't pay for services you have yet to receive. Make progress payments as the terms of your agreement are being met.

The consumer guide also cautions people about potentially fraudulent charities:

* To help victims of the Wallow Fire or other Arizona fire disasters, consider donating to nationally known and legitimate charities, like the Red Cross, rather than charities that you may not recognize.
* Don't judge a charity by its name. False charities may use names that closely resemble legitimate charities.
* Don't let callers play on your sympathy by identifying their organization with the fire. This can be a tactic to get your money.
* Don't be pressured. Give only when you are comfortable with the charity.
* Avoid cash donations and make checks payable to the organization, not to an individual.

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