By Umberto Bacchi
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Italian police have warned the public of fraudsters attempting to cash in on an outpouring of sympathy over a deadly earthquake after the discovery of a bogus charity claiming to raise funds for victims of last month's disaster.
Almost 300 people were killed and thousands left homeless by a powerful tremor that hit central Italy on Aug. 24, prompting an international wave of solidarity.
But not all charitable efforts appeared to be genuine, police said, reporting that detectives had identified a web page set up by a purported charity to sell T-shirts depicting the devastated center of Amatrice, one of the quake-hit towns.
An online ad said profits from the sale of the T-shirts were to be donated to the town but local council officials had never heard of the initiative, police said.
"We urge citizens to verify who the organizers (of a campaign) are before donating money online," police said in a statement on Thursday.
No arrests were made but police said they had launched an investigation to identify similar scams.
Amatrice, was largely flattened by the 6.2 magnitude quake that struck in the middle of the night.
Italy's Civil Protection Agency said it has since collected more than 14 million euros ($15.8 million) in private donations to help those affected.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Katie Nguyen Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)