PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh police are investigating potential fraud after several people allegedly posed as Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank representatives and solicited donations at Rib Fest at Acrisure Stadium.
The food bank received multiple reports of scammers taking advantage of the public outside of large events at Acrisure Stadium, PNC Park and PPG Paints Arena. Others have reported scammers posing as food bank staff in the Strip District and outside of events in the Cultural District.
The food bank provided video of people in yellow vests who were seen carrying buckets with the food bank logo. They are not staff members, volunteers or representatives of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
Ronnell Hunt, a communications specialist with the food bank, was in the right place at the right time on Labor Day. He was at Rib Fest with family and friends when he saw the pair collecting money, immediately noticing the outdated branding of his company’s logo on their collection bucket — two major red flags, as the food bank only collects cash donations once a year, around Christmas at Santa’s House during People’s Gas Holiday Market.
“Being a representative, being an employee here at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, I felt like I had to do my due obligations to take action and try to get to the bottom of it,” Hunt said. “That’s a big reason why we don’t do cash solicitations because it is easy for people to try to mimic that. We have bad actors out there that try to take advantage of people’s good heart, their goodwill.”
The food bank stresses the importance of reporting any individual fundraisers to the nonprofits they’re intended to benefit, with donations needed now more than ever before.
“Thousands of our neighbors rely on the Food Bank and our partners for food assistance, and our work is only possible with the generous support of the community. We want to be sure every dollar donated is going to feed our neighbors, not being stolen by bad actors,” said Chief Development Officer Charla Irwin-Buncher.
The food bank is asking the public to report any suspicious fundraisers to the organization to the police. Those who want to make a donation or want to host a legitimate fundraiser can visit www.PittsburghFoodBank.org or call 412-460-3663.
“You can make sure it’s safe, you can make sure you’re talking to someone if you need to call — someone who is going to put you in good hands and make sure your money is going to the right place,” Hunt said.
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