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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 24th, 2013
06:51 PM ET

Scam artists exploit Oklahoma tornado victims

Usually when disaster strikes, as it did with a deadly tornado in Moore, Oklahoma this week, you can be sure that the scammers will follow, trying to take advantage of people's desire to do good, and to take away whatever the tornado didn't from the victims.

One of these brilliant con arists was just flagged, when a robo-call claiming to be from the Red Cross called the actual Red Cross.

Oklahoma inspector Julie Bays said scam artists show up in the wake of every disaster.

"The problem is a lot of time these victims are vulnerable, they are in shock, and so they are easily taken advantage of," said Bays, Public Protection Chief with the Oklahoma Attorney General's office.

As if victims haven't lost enough, looters are coming in to grab more.

Resident Robert Guidry cleaning up his house, knew what some scammers were after.

"There's copper wiring, and copper that goes to your air conditioning units, and that sells real, real high, it's .. $350 a pound, so you get some of that, you can get rich pretty quick," Guidry said.

Local police have already started making arrests.

"The last I've checked we've had around 10 to 20 arrests for various things throughout the actual event. That will probably start to increase being that the area was just opened up today, so today's the first day that we don't have checkpoints at every entrance," said police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis.

There are persistent rumors about price gouging in the area. Police are fielding complaints that businesses in the area are charging up to forty dollars for a case of water. Now police say those are just rumors, but they're also hearing about hotels and gas stations rising their prices much more than usual.

Lewis said his biggest concern is "contractors that aren't legit contractors, contractors that are just here to rip people off as quick as they can and get out of town."

Officials are warning victims to stay away from unfamiliar people offering to clean up debris or repair their roof with payment up front.

"We tried to warn residents of vehicles, you know, with magnets on them obviously out of state vehicles, anyone asking for money up front, wanting to do, you know, all of their repairs really quickly," said Lewis. "We just don't want anyone signing contracts right now. Let some of it soak in, don't make any rash decisions."

The other warning is for people who want to donate to victims, who should steer clear from suspicious solicitations, which likely come from fake charities.

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