Long Island fire officials are warning residents of a scam making the rounds this week via text messages selling local fire department apparel as part of a fundraiser.
Most concerning, officials said, is that individual districts, including fraternal organizations, have been targeted — with the scammers using mock-ups that include specific department logos.
"They've hit everything from local departments to the fire service academies, even Nassau County Pipes and Drums and Nassau County Firecom," Nassau Chief Fire Marshal Michael F. Uttaro said Friday. "I lost count at about 30 departments that were hit. But, that's the society we live in."
It was not clear the how many departments in Nassau or Suffolk had been targeted. Police in both counties would not immediately comment on any potential investigations or complaints related to the scam.
South Farmingdale Fire Department Chief of Department Christopher Klein said he had been made aware of the texts circulating in Carle Place, East Farmingdale, Westbury, Williston Park and elsewhere — and that the concern was the texts appeared to target those on department fundraising membership lists.
South Farmingdale Fire Department spokesman Donald Mormino said the scam appeared highly organized.
"Each one of the websites linked to the text asking you to order a T-shirt had the specific fire department logo," he said. "And that took some doing. All of those logos, someone had to find them online, cut and paste them. It definitely is an organized effort, not something that was done haphazardly.
"Luckily, we were on it within about 12 hours of someone first getting a text — and we hit social media hard, getting word to at least 7,000 people," Mormino said. "But that's our community."
Mormino said South Farmingdale was hit with a different scam around this time last year as well: A Midwest-based fundraising company, which he said was registered as a nonprofit 501(3)c, claimed it was doing a fundraising drive for the department. "They weren't," Mormino said.
Uttaro said he'd sent a letter to all 71 Nassau departments asking that they warn local residents.
"You click on the link and God knows what'll happen," Uttaro said, adding: "The key is, like everything else, check with the source to see if it's true. Warn your membership, families, friends. If it looks like a scam, sounds like a scam, walks like a scam, it's probably a scam."
Suffolk County Fire Rescue spokesman Jamie Atkinson said: "The shame is residents in the community think they're buying shirts, thinking they're doing that to help firefighters who are volunteers.
"That's pretty low."