PORTLAND, Ore. -- A group of teens was posing as students raising money for a school field trip while scamming donors, according to officials with Portland Public Schools.
The kids claimed to be Benson High School students raising money for a Washington D.C. trip, which a legitimate club at Benson was actually doing but not in the same way.
“The scammers are going door to door asking for cash,” said Sgt. Chris Burley with Portland police.
He said requests for cash should always be a red flag in fraud cases and that in this case, it appeared the scammers were two girls and a boy.
“What they’re doing is fraudulent and it should be reported to the Portland Police Bureau and the school district,” said Burley.
Benson High School’s Black Student Union club was legitimately raising money for an April trip to Washington D.C. to visit historically black universities and colleges. They sold T-shirts and asked family and friends to make tax deductible donations.
“It kind of hurt when I first found out about it,” said club member Jaylen Russell, a junior at Benson.
“I just want to know why,” said senior, Jelisa Turner.
Club advisor JaNae Jamison said the fraudulent fundraising first started last year when kids were raising money for a trip to Atlanta. She said someone from outside Benson’s Black Student Union got ahold of the club's donation information letter, made copies, then hit up strangers asking for cash.
“We were very upset and the kids were disappointed,” said Jamison. “They felt people they were for donations from might not trust them after that.”
Recently, Benson teacher Amy Sutton said she got a knock on her door from a scammer. She said the boy at the door didn’t realize Sutton was a teacher at Benson.
“I told him to come to my classroom at school and I would give him a donation, and he never showed,” said Sutton. “I'm glad that we're getting the word out that there's a scammer because the students at Benson are the best.”
Jamison said they also received a call from citizens who’d found checks on the ground that had been made out to Benson High School and disposed of by the scammers.
“They would just throw them in the street if it wasn’t cash,” said Jamison. “Someone turned in a bag of checks to us and that's how we were alerted.”
For kids in Benson’s Black Student Union, what the scammers did was more than selfish and disappointing.
“[They’re hurting] our future,” said senior, Mariamou Abdoulaye. “Everybody worked so hard to go on this trip and if [the scammers] keep doing this, we might not be able to do it again.”
Because of the fraud case, Portland Public Schools posted a link where the public could donate to Benson’s Black Student Union’s trip fund. All donations are tax-deductible.