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Long Island Lawmaker: Watch Out For Scam Donation Bins

SYOSSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A warning has been issued about a scam preying on people's generosity during the holiday season.

Authorities on Long Island are saying to beware of donation bins that could be bogus.

At first glance, bins CBS2's Kiran Dhillon saw on Thursday look similar to ones you might see around town.

But they're actually fake.

"These makeshift, usually wooden boxes, usually with stenciled information on the front, not professional constructed, and we've learned they are not associated with a not for profit," Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said.

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For the last month, homemade bins have been popping up in Nassau County. Homemade and illegal, the bins claim to be for clothing donations for charity.

"It's actually a scam that's peaking at holiday time. People are collecting these clothes and then they're selling them for profit," Saladino said.

Dar Reardon inspected the donation bin in a Farmingdale parking lot. It claims to be a bin for clothing and toys that will go to charity, but she quickly realized it was a fake.

"It looks really cheesy. It looks like my dad made it with old plywood," Reardon said.

Officials said it's unknown who is behind the bins.

Crews have been removing the bins from around Oyster Bay for weeks, and now recently started issuing tips for residents to avoid being scammed.

"If you want to give at holiday time -- and that's something as we all should be doing -- one should research and know who they are donating to to ensure that their holiday cheer is going to the less fortunate," Saladino said.

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Area residents said they were shocked to hear about the scams.

"False advertising. And during this time of the year people want to help the needy and they're screwing them," Bart Burlison said.

"I think that's very sad. I think at a time where many people are legitimately in need I think it's very sad to know that people would scam and take things away from people that really need," Michael Corley added.

"It's not in the Christmas spirit. It's terrible," another person said.

Reardon said she'll think twice before she donates.

"It is disappointing, but I think sometimes people just feel they have to make an easy buck," Reardon said.

Town officials said a good way to check if an organization is legitimate is by calling its head offices or checking online. Dhillon called a number on one of the bins and heard a recording saying, "The service you are attempting to use has been restricted or is unavailable."

"The easiest way to know that your donations are going to where you'd like them to go is to donate to reputable organizations," Saladino said.

Officials said if you see a suspicious bin, contact the town office.

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