If the heartbreaking school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has left you feeling helpless, you may be inclined to donate to help the community recover.
As with any national tragedy, you must proceed cautiously because con artists concoct sob stories designed to divert your well-intentioned donations to them instead.
On the heels of their warning came an arrest.
On Thursday, authorities charged a woman with lying to agents who were investigating fundraising fraud in connection with the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
"This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone who attempts to profit from this tragedy by contriving fraudulent schemes that exploit the many victims, their families and individuals who sincerely want to help," David Fein, U.S. attorney for Connecticut, said in a statement.
"Investigators continue to monitor the Internet to uncover other fundraising scams arising from this tragedy, and the individuals operating them face federal or state prosecution to the fullest extent permitted by law," Fein said.
"She has no connection to the tragedy," Dan Curtin, an FBI spokesman in New Haven, Conn., told me. "Zero."
Alba told a donor she had to go in Sandy Hook Elementary School to identify her nephew's body, according to an FBI affidavit, which noted family members and next of kin were prohibited from entering the school because it was a crime scene under investigation.
She also claimed to have hugged President Barack Obama when he visited Newtown, the affidavit says.
When Alba was contacted by FBI agents investigating fundraising and charity scams related to the Dec. 14 Newtown shooting, she falsely stated she did not post information related to Newtown on her Facebook account or solicit donations, authorities said in a news release. She also falsely claimed to have immediately refunded any donations that she received.
Alba has not been charged with fraud. The investigation is ongoing.
She told investigators she did not know her inactive PayPal account was being used to solicit donations, according to the FBI affidavit. She said she believed two people that she'd had "negative experiences" with on Facebook had gained access to her account and posted information claiming she was related to one of the 20 children who were shot.
But authorities said that "in furtherance of her scheme to defraud," Alba had communicated with a donor via telephone and text message "regarding her experiences in dealing with the tragedy as a member of one of the victim families."
While Newtown is far from the Lehigh Valley, the cloud of grief reached here.
But you don't need a familial connection to feel the pain. Any parent with young children couldn't help but hug them a little tighter in the past few weeks, knowing the parents in Newtown no longer would have that simple pleasure.
Scammers want to manipulate those feelings and your desire to help those families any way you can. With the Internet and social media like Facebook, scams no longer are restricted by geographic boundaries.
District Attorney Jim Martin said he has not heard of any rip-off attempts in Lehigh County involving the school shootings. The FBI in Philadelphia, which covers our area, also told me it hasn't had any complaints. Allentown police haven't taken any reports, either.