CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Nothing means more to Sherry Pickering than supporting our men and women in uniform. Pickering is the Executive Director of Montgomery County Veterans Coalition.

“This is a coalition of over 250 people that come together in our community to make our veteran community a better place,” Pickering said. 

However, not everyone shares Pickering’s mission. 

Pickering says someone hacked into their email server. The sender used the organization’s name to send fake emails to people not familiar with the group. 

“It was somebody posting that they were a soldier in Syria,” Pickering said. 

The hacker went by the name Barbara, told people she was serving with American Troops in Syria and needed money wired overseas. 

“No soldier would ever send out anything like that, and certainly wouldn’t be asking you to wire money. When I realized that something didn’t look right I contacted our IT person and he immediately contacted our server and they shut it down,” Pickering said. 

The coalition updated their website and social media pages, telling people not to believe this scam. Sadly, these charity scams happen around this time of the year. 

“Everyone is in the giving spirit and wants to support a good cause, and of course scammers know that,” Robyn Householder said.

Robyn Householder with the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee says the best thing you can do is contact an organization directly if you want to donate.

“Realize legitimate charities will not email you directly unless you already have a well established relationship with them,” Householder said. 

It hurts Pickering’s heart to know there are scammers out there pulling on the heartstrings of good people who just want to make a difference.

“The energy that was put into doing that, that energy could easily be put into doing something right,” Pickering said. 

Pickering says hackers used just their email account and thankfully did not access their internal database. 

The BBB wants to remind people to be generous with local charities, but also be vigilant and always contact the charity directly. Follow these tips to make sure your favorite local charity gets your donations safely. 

Know the details: Be sure to know the charity’s exact name and contact information/website. Thousands of charities have similar names, and charities can be easily confused. 

Do your research: Take time to research a charity before deciding to give. Resist pressure to give money on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or a solicitor canvassing the neighborhood. Legitimate charities will gladly accept your donation after you’ve done the research, and after they’ve had time to send you additional information. 

Contact the Charity: Always contact the charity through the contact information on their website. Also, try to go through links on the official website and not on links found on emails. 

Report any suspected email to the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org/scamtracker and the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1

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